Monday, May 3, 2010

Pay to play...

Greetings good citizen,

As you might expect, last week’s market sell off has paved the way for today’s irrational rally, much to no-one’s surprise.

I preach to the choir when I ask what the market is supposed to tell us because we all know the answer…it is how rich the already rich are ‘feeling’ today.

When investors get ‘frightened’ the markets drop, creating ‘opportunity’ for the few with access to the public’s checkbook, who buy what others sell (when nobody in their right mind would.)

But alas, this is not a ‘sanity test’, this is about ‘perception management’, it is about keeping the galley slaves pulling hard at the oars (even while the ship sinks.)

Speaking of ‘perception management’ what do you suppose is happening in the world of ‘spin’ where ‘newsworthiness’ is measured by the impact of lost advertising revenue?

Which is to ask if this is ‘hush money’ or are media chieftains being fairly compensated for making ‘tough decisions’?

What do you think?

Big Paydays for the Chiefs in the Media
Published: May 2, 2010

The media industry may be going through some rough times, with the landscape changing day to day, but at least one aspect is business as usual: big paydays for the people at the top.

Top executives at the country’s largest media companies continued to reel in multimillion-dollar pay packages in 2009, a year of widespread cost-cutting throughout the industry. In several cases, the packages even increased from the year before. [What’s that? Is the ‘cost of silence’ creeping up? You can bet our ‘corporate sponsors’ gladly ‘pony up’, considering the alternative.]

At the top of the list is Leslie Moonves, chief executive of the CBS Corporation, whose pay package in 2009 totaled almost $43 million, more than twice what he made in 2008, according to an analysis by Equilar, an executive compensation research firm. [Perhaps more disturbing is the, er, ‘extreme’ lack of activity at the top of the corporate ladder…many of today’s ‘Media Chieftains’ are downright ancient…what keeps a man chained to his desk long after he should be ‘enjoying retirement?’ Could it be ‘fear of discovery’?]

Not far behind was Viacom’s chief executive, Philippe P. Dauman, who was paid nearly $34 million, a 22 percent increase over 2008. Sumner M. Redstone, who controls CBS and Viacom, was paid more than $33 million from the two companies combined.

“Anybody who reads the business section knows the margins are being squeezed at media companies, so the fact that there are these huge packages makes no sense,” said James F. Reda, the founder of James F. Reda & Associates, a compensation consulting firm with offices in New York and Atlanta. [It does if you look at it in the terms of ‘the price of silence’, without these guys riding herd on what does and does not see the light of day, the streets would be red with blood! No irony should be lost on the fact that theirs would be among the first to be spilled!]

At Comcast, the two highest-paid executives, Brian L. Roberts and Stephen B. Burke, were paid $25 million and $31 million. Mr. Roberts’s pay was essentially the same as the year before, while Mr. Burke’s increased about $12 million, much of it because of one-time bonuses related to the company’s purchase of NBC Universal.

For several executives, it was more lucrative to be running a media company in 2009, however wobbly it might be, than a large financial firm, where many boards cut executive pay after the federal financial bailout.

John G. Stumpf, the head of Wells Fargo, was the highest-paid financial executive, earning an $18.8 million package, according to an analysis by Equilar. Lloyd C. Blankfein, the head of Goldman Sachs, made $41 million in 2008 and less than $1 million in 2009, Equilar said, not including a $9 million payout he received this year that was deemed to be for work done the year before but is not included in Equilar’s calculations. [Yes good citizen, once again there is ‘pay’ and there is ‘PAY’! Some you see and some you don’t…and, naturally, some pay is more ‘newsworthy’ than others…]

The bankers’ pay will most likely return to past levels if financial reform passes, Mr. Reda said, as Washington’s spotlight will shift elsewhere and the banks will have less incentive to stay in the public’s good graces. [Um, what the reporter is telling us is that we can’t trust the banking system to behave without ‘constant surveillance’. This is nearly as ludicrous as his remark about banking compensation returning to ‘past levels’ in a badly damaged global economy…Once again we are compelled to contemplate if anyone out there in the corporate desert knows what the word ‘bonus’ really means?]

Mr. Reda said, “What is the government going to do after financial reform? Take away their birthday?” [How’s THAT for spin? Does anyone besides the editors who cleared this piece for publication actually believe ‘financial reform’ is even going to slow these thieves down? This, in an article that amply demonstrates the amazing ‘flexibility’ of ‘ executive compensation packages’? Ha!]

Despite the hard times at many media companies and the uncertainty of maintaining revenue in the digital future, investors did not shy away last year. The stock of CBS jumped 74 percent in 2009, and Viacom’s stock rose 56 percent. [Um, what does this tell you good citizen? It tells me there is an ‘extreme dearth’ of investment opportunities, not just here but worldwide.]

In the case of many of the media executives, including Mr. Dauman at Viacom, most of the compensation is based on the company’s performance. Mr. Dauman’s base salary in 2009, $2.5 million, was unchanged from the year before. [How much you want to bet this figure isn’t ‘all inclusive’?]

The media industry did rebound in 2009 after a particularly tough 2008, but for many companies that largely meant cutting expenses, including labor costs. Overall revenue declines remained commonplace, but in many cases profits rose. [Not for nothing, but why do reductions in ‘operating expenses’ ALWAYS lead to significant increases in ‘Overhead’ costs?]

At Viacom, revenue in 2009 declined 7 percent compared with the year before but the company’s profit rose to $1.6 billion, a 29 percent increase, not far off from Mr. Dauman’s 22 percent pay raise. CBS returned to profitability in 2009 — $227 million — after a huge write-down in 2008. [Presto chango! Good citizen, just more ‘accounting magic’ for your reading, er, ‘amusement’…]

“Right now, the executive compensation is not what’s driving people to invest or not invest in these stocks,” said Rich Greenfield, a media analyst at BTIG in New York. “Shareholders are more focused on the underlying growth prospects of the companies than executive compensation.” [Shit! How much do you want to bet Mr. Richfield’s job is to sell stock in media corporations? What a crock of crap! Reality check here good citizen (and you can verify this from your own experiences) it is such a MINEFIELD out there that investing in ANYTHING carries enormous risk. This isn’t an expression of confidence in the strength of the media markets, it is more an act of desperation driven by the now ‘rabid’ hunt for ROI.]

The pay packages for executives at public companies are made available in corporate filings. Equilar’s calculation includes base salary, discretionary and performance-based cash bonuses, the grant-date value of stock and option awards and other compensation.

Pay increases extended beyond the handful of large media conglomerates to some of the largest newspaper companies as well.

Craig A. Dubow, the head of Gannett, the country’s largest newspaper publisher, was paid $4.4 million in 2009, up 17 percent from the year before.

At The New York Times, Janet L. Robinson, the chief executive, was paid $4.9 million in 2009, 26 percent more than the year before, and Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the chairman, made $4.8 million, a 171 percent increase. Gary B. Pruitt, the chief executive of McClatchy, was paid $2.6 million last year, up 61 percent.

But pay did not increase across the board.

Both Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes at the News Corporation had declines in pay, 40 percent for Mr. Murdoch — to about $18 million — and 21 percent for Mr. Ailes, the head of Fox News, who was paid $14.6 million. [Geez, is pumping up conservatism finally starting to cost media outlets customers? I highly doubt this will ‘silence’ the ‘noise machine’.]

Other top executives’ pay fell, too. Robert A. Iger, head of Disney, was paid $21.6 million in 2009, 58 percent less than the year before, and his counterpart at Time Warner, Jeffrey L. Bewkes, earned $19.4 million, a 10 percent drop.

Several analysts said the shifting marketplace and uncertainty surrounding the media business could actually contribute to the large payouts, making companies even more determined to hold on to people they see as gifted executives.

“When you have an industry going through so much tumult, it puts upward pressure on pay because so many people are moving around,” said Don Delves, the president of the Delves Group, a compensation consulting firm in Chicago. “People are looking around a lot, people are moving around and there’s a concern about losing talent.” [Gee, you couldn’t prove that theory by examining the content that gets ‘green lighted’…who approves this shit anyway?]

He added that big compensation figures were “one of the difficulties in the whole business model.

Left to your imagination here good citizen is just how much of the larger picture is on display for us in this article?

Then there is the larger picture itself.

What will the ‘new normal’ look like and, after the economy ‘shrinks to fit’ how do you suppose they intend to deal with the inevitable violence?

Um the answers to puzzles such as this will NOT be forthcoming from the ‘corporate owned’ media, where anything that threatens the ongoing ‘tranquility’ of ‘Mayberry, RFD’, writ large, is vehemently denied.

There is no ‘premium’ in admitting the ‘truth’ good citizen so they will continue to tell you lies…which leaves you where, good citizen?

It leaves you vulnerable, vulnerable and susceptible!

The corporate structure owes you nothing good citizen and if you need confirmation of that just ask a Libertarian!

It is (under the rules of our warped and twisted New World Order) up to you to keep abreast of what is and isn’t in your ‘best interests’…as long as those interests keep you ‘exploitable’ by the corporate machine.

How can you keep enjoying low Wal-Mart prices if we put a stop to the off shoring of the manufacturing sector? What’s more important? Low prices for you or good jobs for the Chinese? It’s a ‘win-win’!

Perhaps more importantly, what will the economy look like when we’ve all been reduced to ‘sustenance farming’?

It will look just like it does in Banana Republic’s around the world…and the kids won’t mind because they won’t have to go to school…I mean how much training does it take to learn how to handle a hoe?

If these prospects don’t chill you good citizen then just go back to sleep, you’re only going to get in the way.

Thanks for letting me inside your head,


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