As Hollywood awakens to what looms to be, pending an official vote , as the first “double strike” of both writers and actors since yours truly was an infant, there are quite a number of Hollywood executives who owe the world, and certainly union members who directly or indirectly make their livings from them, some apologies. The fact that even the ability to promote, let alone produce, entertainment in a summer so crucial to bringing some degree of normalcy back into an industry that desperately needs it is being taken away means a lot of people I care tremendously about will be walking picket lines in wha portends to be a hot. lonely and silent summer–the kind I’ve, for the most part, endured for this entire decade to date.
Ken Solomon isn’t one of those executives, at least any more. He currently runs The Tennis Channel, which, if anything, could stand to benefit from prolonged strikes that might eventually limit original episodes of entertainment from being viable viewing options. It’s been decades since he held top positions at entetainment studios like Fox and Universal, and he, like myself, was far more attached to the business side than the creative.
But yet, amidst a swelling number of stories extolling both the details and the bittersweet timing of Emmy nominations that could possibly, as they were in 1980, be awarded to no-shows, there was Ken’s name attached to a story which somehow THE WRAP’s Natalie Korach saw fit to drop late yesterday:
Three former Fox executives expressed remorse Wednesday for helping build what they called Rupert Murdoch’s “disinformation machine,” saying that Fox News “has had many negative impacts on our society,” including the Jan. 6 insurrection on the capitol.
Ken Solomon, Bill Reyner and Preston Padden published a blog post torching what has become of Fox and lamenting their role in its conception. All three former execs took responsibility for “helping to give birth” to Fox’s broadcasting network.
Padden, of course, has publicly resurfaced recently as he has leant his credibility and details of his recent personal correspondences with Rupert Murdoch, many of which were uncovered in documents released in anticipation of the legal showdown with Dominion Voting Systems where FOX paid nearly $800 million in damages to effectively stymie a public trial, toward efforts to deny FOX a renewal of its license for its Philadelphia owned-and-operated station. Padden apparently feels exceptionally strongly about this issue, as the source for the blog post referenced by Korach is labeled “boulderpreston”.
But this time, he’s lined up a few other names to join him in what also appears to be soul-cleansing for people who have had decades of pent-up remorse. Per the post’s first paragraphs:
For what little it may, or may not, be worth at this point, Preston Padden, Ken Solomon and Bill Reyner wish to express their deep disappointment for helping to give birth to Fox Broadcasting Company and Fox Television that came to include Fox News Channel — the channel that prominently includes news that, in the words of Sidney Powell’s counsel, “no reasonable person would believe.”
In the 1990’s Bill was lead outside Counsel for NewsCorp/Fox/Rupert Murdoch (“Fox”) and Preston was their lead Washington Lobbyist. Ken was Executive VP of Network Distribution for Fox Broadcasting Company. There was no Fox News Channel on the horizon at the time, and none of us ever worked for that Channel.
With the help of others, Bill and Preston tenaciously defended Fox from attacks alleging Fox’s failure to comply with the foreign ownership restrictions of the Communications Act of 1934, and we obtained for Fox waivers of the FCC’s rules including the Financial Interest and Syndication Rule (“FISR”) and the Broadcast/Newspaper Cross-Ownership Rule. Eventually, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit confirmed the elimination of the FISR Rule. All of these waivers were critical in enabling Fox to become the long-sought fourth broadcast television network. Out of the ashes of antiquated rules, we were able to help Fox acquire more mass with the acquisition of essential large market VHF television stations and important rights to broadcast NFL games throughout the country.
Ken was instrumental in strengthening the lineup of local broadcast stations affiliated with the new Fox Network. He prepared powerful presentations that persuaded established affiliates of ABC, CBS and NBC to switch to Fox. His efforts were critical to enabling the viability of Fox.
Now I don’t know Reyner, who seems at least on paper to be a legal cohort of Padden (whose LinkedIn says he holds the title as CEO of Mission TV LLC) and seems to merely have direct ties to all of this history via his past ownership of a FOX affiliate in Rapid City, South Dakota, the 169th largest DMA in the country. So although the likelihood of one of its viewers potentially being sympatico with the kind of rhetoric and disinformation which Padden is saber-rattling about was proportionately more likely to have occurred on that station that, say, the Philadelphia O and O the market size would diminish the degree of influence, and hence, accountability that he may or may not need to own up to.
But I do know Ken quite well– at least, at one time I did. And, like me, he participated in sales efforts to push the viability of FOX content that ultimately Murdoch invested in FOX News Channel, efforts that only bore fruit long after we both had departed the company. We were both handsomely compensated by Murdoch for our efforts–judging by his home address, I’d offer he was far more geneorously compensated than was I. We both cashed his checks, not ever foreseeing what the “boulderpreston” blog post continued to describe:
At the time of our work in the 1990’s, we all greatly admired Rupert Murdoch and his vision and bold efforts…We never envisioned, and would not knowingly have enabled, the disinformation machine that, in our opinion, Fox has become…In our opinion, the Fox News Channel has had many negative impacts on our society. Arguably the worst has been Fox’s role in promoting Trump’s “Big Lie” about alleged widespread fraud in the 2020 election and, in our opinion, Fox’s role in contributing to the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol that undermined our democracy.
Now as Padden is mounting his case in what even the most supportive observers acknowledge is a longshot attempt to deny Murdoch the chance to continue to own and profit from an entity given rights by the federal goverment to continue to air such content in a market as influential as Philadelphia, it’s understandable why he may feel the need to double down on these kinds of clarifications. Or maybe he’s working through Steps 8, 9 and 10 of some 12-step program that folks with Washington connections are doing these days. Were that the case, then it’s kinda nice that old friends like Bill and Ken are willing to lend their names to this quixotic pursuit.
But I kinda wonder what else might be prompting someone like Solomon, who is likely spending quite a bit of time these days at Grand Slam events wining and dining prospective clients reminding that his network’s audience is often larger, younger and richer than, say, FS1’s, to lend his name to apologies now when he’s far more recently been in business with the likes of Tennis Channel’s parent company Sinclair Broadcast Group, which during the Trump administration was attached to its own share of disinformation which Claire Atkinson of CNBC reported they apparently had their own come-to-Jesus moment with late in 2019:
Sinclair Broadcast Group is axing the “must-run” segments of one of its biggest stars, Boris Epshteyn, the network’s chief political analyst and a former special assistant to President Donald Trump. The move is part of a companywide effort to move away from political commentary in favor of investigative journalism.
“We have to shine a light on our value proposition every quarter hour, in every newscast,” the company said in a statement to its staff. “Therefore, we will be expanding our local investigative journalism footprint in our daily newscasts.”
“To allot additional airtime for this storytelling, we will be ending the commentary segments this Friday, Dec. 13, featuring Ameshia Cross, and Boris Epshteyn,” the memo continued.
Epshteyn’s political commentary, which ran across all 193 stations as part of a Sinclair corporate mandate, has been widely criticized. In a piece last year about immigration on the Southern border, Epshteyn used the word “invasion” to describe the influx of migrants. Sinclair was forced to post a tweet that the viewpoint did not represent the company’s views and that it is “committed to fair, unbiased journalism across our stations nationwide.”
I don’t recall seeing Solomon’s name attached to any sort of public disavowal of that alliance during a time when he was likely cashing far larger checks from Chris Ripley than he did from Murdoch in the day. During a time when he was also lending his name, home and personal efforts to DNC fund-raisers around Los Angeles, often holding prominent positions in those efforts. And in the 2010s he personally donated nearly $60,000 to campaigns and efforts related to the campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris, Katie McGinty, Joe Biden and Mark Harris. Look it up on CampaignMoney.com.
Believe me, on a chairman’s salary, he could afford those donations. Far more so than I can these days when not an hour goes by where I don’t get an e-mail from Adam Schiff, Doug Emhoff, Lauren Boebert’s opponent for her congressional seat, or my “friends” Joe and Kamala pleading for me to find $3, $5, $13, or “whatever I can afford”.
But since Ken now seems to be open to offering apologies, perhaps it might be time for yours truly to humbly put myself in line for a few.
Perhaps if Ken hadn’t somehow been too busy to return any of my more than one dozen phone calls, or the personal requests of mutual friends to do so when on multiple occasions over the last decade his network was seeking a head of research that my friends were stunned I wasn’t a candidate for, I might be more open to finding that “whatever I can afford”.
Perhaps if “The Blur” hadn’t been so aligned with comrades in arms who are on their own later-life kick to “save democracy” that the mere act of asking for his endorsement for other jobs when I so desperately needed some degree of support resulted in my BANNING from a reunion of many fellow FOX alums last year , I might be in a slightly better and, you may think, somewhat less bitter frame of mind these days.
Mind you, I’m not all that bitter under the circumstances. After all, I’ve long ago forgiven Ken for having the audacity to call me out of the blue to personally beg for a clearance on FOX’s Washington, D.C. station for REGIS AND KATHIE LEE on the day the local WTTG executives were burying their revered general manager and weren’t around to meet his self-imposed deadline for him to close one of his largest open markets while an account executive with Buena Vista Television. And apparently, since the company he harassed eventually hired him after my dismissal, they let bygones be bygones then, too.
I even defended him years later when an executive I later worked for chortled in drunken glee about the joy he had in firing “that entitled putz’ ass” (meaning Solomon) when he was part of a new leadership team at Universal Television. Believe me, it didn’t do much for my own credibility when I refused to laugh along with him. (Oh, don’t worry about who this executive is; he’s had far greater challenges and falls from grace than yours truly, many self-inflicted, and he’s no longer attached to that company).
I can’t begin to tell you how many people insist, literally shriek at me, to apologize for ever being associated with companies run by Murdoch. The closest I actually came to helping anything close to FOX News was sheparding a corporate brand research project in the early 2000s which the news divisionwas dragged kicking and screaming into by Peter Chernin, a study that revealed that there was a negative halo being cast on the FOX-owned stations by its ever-increasing graphic connection of its news broadcasts to FNC’s, let alone the kind of shared content which Padden’s license challenge argument is largely based on.
So there, gents, is what little actual support I can offer up to help your cause that FNC’s shadow tarnishes the viability of their broadcast stations And, just as y’all say, for what little it may, or may not, be worth at this point, I’ll admit in hindsight I’m not all that proud that that learning didn’t have more influence on the powers that be than I might have wished it could have had. So I’ll apologize publicly for that, even if I don’t have access to THE WRAP to amplify my come-uppance.
But I don’t apologize for taking Murdoch’s money. I don’t believe anyone should ever apologize for taking anyone’s money if it’s offered sincerely. And, like Solomon (among many others) often has over the years, sometimes you believe you’re justified in making requests under some otherwise questionable circumstances.
Kinda like those I’m in now.
Full disclosure: I did do work for Ken at one time when he needed my skill sets. His compensation was generous, and its timing was fortuitous. I believe I thanked him vociferously and reverently then. If somehow that was lost in translation, then let me take my own Step 8, 9, or 10 and reaffirm that.
But times are tougher now. I just honestly wonder, what in G-d’s name did I ever do to not even warrant a phone call or an e-mail just once in the last SEVEN YEARS to justify such ghosting?
And for anyone who might be inclined to yet again shriek at me by writing this, quite honestly, were you in my shoes, seeing something like this piece in this news cycle, be brutally honest, how in G-d’s name would YOU feel?
So, Ken, if you do happen to see this, because as so many people silently acknowledge sometimes these musings do have some reach, I’m not going to pile on any further than others have over time. And since I don’t see any openings these days at your place, I’m even going to let bygones be bygones about all of those unreturned outreaches–even a polite “it’s not a fit” acknowledgment–that somehow your busy schedule prevented you from giving me the common decency to experience.
And if you somehow feel as motivated here as you are for Mr. Padden’s efforts. and might be inclined to abet in a tangible way, anyone who does read this knows darn well how it can best be shown. Unlike the barrage of e-mails I receive on a daily basis, I’m only gonna ask once. Click on the link below for further details. Bluntly, I need the help a bit more these days than do my “good friends” Joe and Kamala.
Oh, and remind Preston that my offer to produce the Nielsen study that will more than likely prove that Murdoch and his current band of sycophants never bothered to actually check if the audience they feared they were losing directly to Newsmax and OAN were the exact same viewers. or merely a misinformed and oversimplified assumption that they were, free of charge for my services still stands. All I need is access to the data, which I know your current research head could easily provide were you to ask.
Continued good health, personal success and exciting volleys.
Until next time…