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carole lombard 04

Will the Fox guard the TCM henhouse?

Posted by vp19 on 2014.07.17 at 20:31
Current mood: anxiousanxious

This still of Carole Lombard with Warner Baxter from "The Arizona Kid" in 1930 is more or less the last time Lombard was associated with the Fox studio. But thanks to the machinations of the telecommunications industry, that soon may change.

The Rupert Murdoch-owned conglomerate now known as 21st Century-Fox (apologies to Darryl F. Zanuck, but you've got to change with the times) made a hostile bid for TimeWarner earlier this week. (That name isn't entirely accurate now, as earlier this year the firm jettisoned its magazine division, including Time.) The bid was spurned, but that doesn't mean Murdoch -- who has a knack for getting what he wants -- can't sweeten the deal to woo stockholders. Many analysts label Fox buying TimeWarner a "when," not an "if."

Much of the conjecture regarding the deal concerns CNN (which Murdoch probably would peddle for antitrust reasons) or Fox coveting MLB and NBA rights now property of TBS and TNT. Of course, as classic Hollywood buffs, we take a slightly different angle; our focus is on another TimeWarner property...

...Turner Classic Movies, which turned 20 this past April. Under Fox ownership, might it change by the time it turns 25 in 2019 -- and if so, by how much?

It's easy to crack simplistic jokes about Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz being replaced by the classic movie equivalent of leggy, vapid Fox News blondes. (Gretchen Carlson just attacked the 17-year-old "Seinfeld" Festivus episode for undermining Christianity.) But seriously, what might Fox do with TCM?

Will McKinley, at his fine site "Cinematically Insane," examined this the other day (http://willmckinley.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/how-a-foxtime-warner-merger-might-impact-classic-film-fans/). His thoughts are well worth checking out. And here are some thoughts of my own:

* Don't let what happened with Fox Movie Channel, which not long ago abandoned its all-classic, commercial-free format, lead you to believe TCM will suffer the same ignominious fate. FMC was little-watched as few systems carried it, and had a small film library (how many times could one watch "No Highway In The Sky"?) from a single studio. In contrast, TCM has a far bigger library or contractual agreements with studios (including Fox in recent years), is carried by the vast majority of cable and satellite systems, and in short has positioned itself as a "brand." Such cachet should lead Murdoch to treat TCM along the lines of the Wall Street Journal, not the New York Post.

* Where home video is concerned, McKinley points out that the Warner Archive has done a far better job -- both commercially and aesthetically -- than Fox's equivalent (Fox Cinema Archives), and Warners probably would take command in any merger of the two.

Yes, classic film fans have every right to be wary, but as McKinley writes, "at first glance, it appears to me that this merger would only likely increase access to, and availability of, classic films and TV shows."

And speaking of TCM, not long ago I saw one of these tour buses along Hollywood Boulevard -- nearly three months after the TCM Classic Film Festival, when the tours were offered on a short-lived basis. Now, the TCM Movie Locations Tour has been brought back, complementing the TCM Classic Film Tour offered in New York.

Not just a "Hollywood" tour, the three-hour excursion takes riders all over film-related locations across Los Angeles, dating back to silent times. To learn more or to make reservations, go to http://www.starlinetours.com/los-angeles-tour-9.asp?origin=TCM.


(Anonymous) at 2014-07-18 07:38 (UTC) (Link)
I find this news troubling for the fact that Fox Movie Channel is such a poor channel. While it used to be amazing, it now replays basically the same 20 films for the month and switches. The channel also features mostly recent films, films that are shown on a multitude of other channels. Like most cable channels, it has drastically lost is's purpose and programming direction. TCM appears to gradually be focusing on newer films too. This is most apparent during Oscar month, which is why I have a difficult time viewing the channel during that time. With the recent addition of Fox films on TCM, I find myself even more frustrated because now TCM is playing the very same films Fox Movie Channel plays on rotation.

While I agree with several of your concerns, I was disappointed with the inclusion of politics, specifically towards Fox News Channel. While I too am frustrated by the interchangeable blondes on the channel, I believe the addition of political opinion weakens your argument. It seems petty, when I know you are so much more eloquent than that. Besides, Murdoch is more than willing to have opposing political opinions on his channels if they make him money. Two of the most popular television shows in the world, The Simpsons and Family Guy, are on his flagship network. They have political opinions that are the direct opposite of Murdoch, and aren't afraid to vocalize it. I just hope that TCM is a valuable enough product to remain "as is" (or better) regardless of whether this business deal goes through.
(Anonymous) at 2014-07-18 08:15 (UTC) (Link)


I was Director of Programming for Fox Movie Channel in the late 90s-early 00s. Thank you for your kind words about how the channel used to be. Most of the people I worked with haven't been there for about 10 years. As for The Arizona Kid, I remember looking for it on a list of films in the archive. It wasn't there - at least not back then. If it was, I would have done what I could to get it restored, like I was able to do with a couple of things. Maybe a print is floating around somewhere. Hope so. I really hope Fox doesn't get their hands on TCM.
(Anonymous) at 2014-07-20 13:08 (UTC) (Link)
Petty is telling someone what to write on their blog, while going on to write a lengthy defense of Murdoch.
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