The debilitating spread of inequality between the superrich 1-percenters and America's downwardly mobile majority is of huge economic, political and cultural significance to our country. So why is it largely ignored by the television media?
Meet David Zaslav, CEO of the Discovery Channel's cable-TV empire. His salary last year was $3 million — but it was padded with an extra $6 million bonus, nearly $2 million in perks, and a neat $145 million in special stock gimmes, a total paycheck of $156 million. For one guy in one year. Zaslav is not just a 1-percenter, but a top 1-thousandth-of-the-1-percenters.
Les Moonves at CBS is up there, too, wallowing in the $54 million he was paid in 2014. In fact, of the ten most lavishly paid corporate chieftains last year, six are television barons, with Comcast, Disney, Time Warner and Verizon joining the elite class. Someone should cast the whole bunch of them in a reality-TV show called, The Wealth Gap Are Us!
What genius do they have that warrants such extravagant pay? None. It's simply that they are lucky hirelings of an exclusive club of wealth that owns and controls most television conglomerates. The billionaire media tycoon Sumner Redstone, for example, owns nearly 80 percent of the voting stock of both CBS and Viacom, so $50 million for Moonves is not a stretch for him, nor can other stockholders stop his excess. Likewise, only three billionaires control Discovery, and $156 million for Zaslav is nothing to them. Then there's Comcast, which owns NBC and Universal Studios. It's CEO, Brian Roberts, controls a third of the conglomerate's stock — so he's essentially able to set his own pay.
When so few people with such massive wealth control the media, the media is not likely to turn its public spotlight on the malefactions of great wealth.
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.