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You've Got Blackmail: What insiders wouldn't say about last week's media mega-merger

Wednesday, Jan 19 2000
January 19, 2000

WASHINGTON -- While most newspapers and television news programs couldn't say enough nice things about the AOL-Time Warner merger, key players are expressing concerns -- off the record.

The anonymous remarks, collected at a password-protected section of the Columbia Journalism School's alumni Web site, reflect a growing unease about the AOL-Time Warner deal among legislators, technology CEOs, and journalists themselves. Journalists covering the merger began posting the comments at the site shortly after last Monday's announcement.

The comments were leaked to the alt.journalism Internet discussion group early yesterday. The Columbia Journalism School has since removed the Web page from its site. The following are select comments from the document posted to the Usenet newsgroup.

"What most consumers probably don't realize is that they will have far fewer options online. If AOL-Time Warner doesn't own the content, chances are it won't be available on their Internet, and for most people, it just won't be available period." -- Viacom programming executive to Variety

"They'll call it the Internet but it won't be. It'll be interesting to see if consumers are satisfied with AOL's sanitized version of the World Wide Web." -- Wired news reporter to the San Francisco Examiner

"It's going to be $20 bucks a month for basic service and $100 bucks a month if you opt for the enhanced 'with privacy' package." -- AOL engineer to

"If this doesn't violate current antitrust laws, then we need some new ones. I suspect someone in the current administration has muzzled the Justice Department on this one." -- A Republican sitting on the Senate Commerce Committee to the Washington Post

"Regardless of their new resources, we expect AOL will stand by its pledge to legislate open access to broadband networks." -- A high-level advisor to democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley to the Industry Standard

"Two years from now, will you be able to upload to the AOL-Time Warner Inc. Internet? No. Will you be able to say something negative about an AOL-TWI property in one of their chat rooms? No. What will you be able to do? Download their movies, read their magazines, and buy their music programming." -- CEO of national Internet service provider to The New York Times

"It's the Anschluss all over again." -- Merrill Lynch Vice President to Dow Jones News Service

"Most of my fellow journalists covering this merger are more interested in the value of their present or future stockholdings than the impact that this vertical integration will most likely have on our profession." -- Reporter for the Christian Science Monitor to CNBC

"At [Herb Allen's] Sun Valley retreat, Case went so far as to say, 'We are closing in on our goal of merging entertainment and advertising into a single medium.'" -- Well-known author to the New Yorker

South to the Future's stories contain fictional and factual elements. Except when public figures are being satirized, any use of real names is accidental and coincidental. Comments?

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