It has been announced that Meredith Corp., is going to purchase Time Inc. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Meredith Corp., they are the publisher of some fine, wholesome lifestyle magazines like Family Circle and Better Homes and Gardens. Which makes this acquisition seemingly unremarkable. But there’s more to this story and one that is causing some concern. The identity of Meredith’s financial partner in this acquisition are billionaire brothers – Charles and David Koch. They will supply $650 million of the $2.8 billion purchase price. The brothers own a vast energy, apparel, and agriculture conglomerate known as Koch Industries, which is the second largest privately held company in the United States.
Perhaps they don’t seem like the type of people who would want to purchase a news operation, but when you have that kind of money, what else would you spend it on? The Koch brothers are also major financial supporters of libertarian and conservative causes and candidates. This is what is causing eyebrows to be raised. The Koch brothers essentially fueled the tea party movement in 2010, and they have contributed a ton of money to support Republican candidates who oppose things like efforts to address climate change. They also support candidates who are in favor of dismantling the Affordable Care Act and oppose unions and support tax restructuring favorable to wealthy interests.
Hmmm… Is any of this ringing any bells with you right now? This is also coming at a time when the current Administration is interested in censoring some of the current news publications. A spokesperson for Koch noted that the billionaires are making a passive financial investment. Meaning, they won’t have a seat on Meredith’s board and they won’t have any editorial role within the magazines. But are you going to buy that? They are also making the argument that the money is coming from the Koch’s corporate investments, not out of their pockets personally. But is there really a difference in this case?
I am not the only one who thinks that this is a bit shady. Former Time editor Charles Alexander has said that the magazine’s long history of award-winning environmental reporting is threatened by the Koch’s involvement. He states:
“It is perverse and dangerous for two billionaires with no commitment to factual truth to be permitted to buy a magazine that has been a voice for reason and use it to further their narrow business interests. I still have faith that in the long ideological war over climate change, the truth will eventually prevail. The ravages of global warming will become too obvious to be denied, even by the likes of Trump. But by then the damage to the planet may be irreversible, and my beloved Time, once a soldier for truth, may have fallen casualty to the forces of greed and deception.”
While his comments might be a bit dramatic, what he’s saying isn’t. At least in terms of what this could do. But others don’t necessarily agree with Alexander. Some are suggesting that this isn’t a good way to push a political agenda through the media because these aren’t really big players in the political arena. But is that the case? It’s hard to say. On one hand, this kind of acquisition is extremely scary given how things are politically right now. This might suggest a further move in that direction. But it also suggests that anyone with enough money can buy a publication and say or do whatever they please.
On the other hand, some critics might be right. This might be getting blown out of proportion. Someone close to me often reminds me that I shouldn’t read into things, so maybe we are all reading too much into this? It’s hard to say, and I want to say “only time will tell”, as I feel that is a cheesy and unnecessary pun. So I will leave you with this. It’s not something I can predict as I don’t have a crystal ball. But it’s something that is likely to get sorted out in the near future.