The Billionaires and Their Media Toys

The Rich normally splurge their wealth on the finest things in life. From luxurious cars, mega-state mansions as homes, commercial real estates, private jets and some have sports team under their belt. Some collect rare art memorabilia and old paintings whose worth is in millions of dollars. Their lifestyles involves jet setting across the world, establishing their status as modern day monarchies.

Throughout the years, some turned their eyes to the Media Industry. Buying Print Media like Newspapers, Journals and even creating Broadcast Media such as Television, Radio Channels and so many more. The likes of Rupert Murdoch, Jeff Bezos, Marc Benioff, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Bloomberg, David Thomson, Ted Turner, John Henry, Joe Mansueto, Carlos Slim Helu, Viktor Vekselberg and many more own majority stakes in media outlets.

Image Source: BBC Research

Many would argue that these Individuals already have everything the world could offer, why then own the press? For some like Michael Bloomberg who owns Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Media and Rupert Murdoch who is basically a “media god”, made their fortunes through the media empires they own.

With Bloomberg LP, Michael managed to build an empire in business and financial data, news and insight through the Bloomberg Terminal. Bloomberg Media Group on the other hand, is one of the leading business and financial news media company, offering insights on politics, businesses, technology and even markets. It is home to Bloomberg TV which runs successful shows like Bloomberg Technology, Bloomberg Money Undercover, Bloomberg Commodities Edge, Bloomberg Real Yield, Bloomberg Markets, Bloomberg Surveillance, Bloomberg Wall Street Week, Leaders with Lacqua, High Flyers, Bloomberg ETF IQ and so many more. It is the go to TV for CEOs and Chairmen of successful companies who follow markets sentiment round clock.

For Rupert Murdoch, it was the passion ignited from a young age having inherited a chain of Australian Newspapers at 22 years old. He has serious interests in Media owning businesses in TV Broadcasting, Print Media, Film Production and Book Publishing. His Media Empires span across five continents includiing well known names such as Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, The Sun (London), The Times (London), HarperCollins and so many more. His fortune stems from the Media Business, having been amassed through strategic acquisitions across the world.

In Tanzania, The Late Reginald Abraham Mengi also had a passion for Media and Free Press. His Quest to champion Journalism saw him build a mass fortune through his company IPP Media Limited. The Media Giant in the country houses prints namely The Guardian, The Guardian on Sunday, Nipashe, Nipashe Jumapili and Financial Times. The Company is also home to broadcast media such as ITV (Television Network). East African Television (EATV), Capital TV, Capital Radio and even Radio One (Radio Channel).

For Bloomberg, Murdoch and Mengi, media is (was) not just a business. But an opportunity to uphold the true values of Journalism. Their passion to create ventures that will advocate for Free Press and authenticity in Reporting News has attributed to the longevity of their empires and has set them apart from their peers.

Print Media, which has found favor in the eyes of the rich has seen struggling times in terms of revenue. The section of the media whose business model took a hit from the 90s due to the creation of the Internet, has seen revenue fall due to decrease in ads revenue and decrease in number of issues sold. So when Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post, John Henry bought the Boston Globe and Marc Benioff purchased Time Magazine, one would say it was a Hail Mary.

The Newspaper now have access to dry powder that will fund their daily operations while still in their quest of figuring out how to make money in the print business. Despite being under a wealthy ownership, Print is yet to address the dominance of the Internet, which has derailed people’s concentration when reading. Individuals including myself struggle to concentrate on reading Print Issues without being distracted by a video on the Internet, or something on TV or even text messages on the phone. One would rather just get information faster through watching a video on their phone, tablet or laptop rather than sitting and reading a full paged-article on a Newspaper.

These owners are also finding it difficult to address the ads revenue fall, as most advertisers prefer cheaper forms of advertising such as Social Media and others prefer television as it is more enticing to convey your message and products through visual aids. Most Prints are driving a shift towards a digital model, persuading customers to subscribe monlthly or annually so as to have access to the news. the aim is also to bring in revenue through the subscription numbers as they increase.

Print is one of the difficult media business to run, especially in the modern day era, as there is no a definite business model that has proven to be quite sustainable and successful in ensuring print thrives alongside digital media. However, that has not stopped the rich from writing cheques to purchase them. One may I argue that owning a Newspaper or Magazine certainly increase your influence in Politics, Sports or even Business. An argument that Bezos infuence in Washington may have increased as a result of owning The Washington Post. Michael Bloomberg’s influence in the Finance, Business and Technology world has been attributed and fueled by Bloomberg Media and Bloomberg LP.

To some, it is just another toy or side business, while to others it is a strategic decision to amass influence and wealth. Tanzanian Billionaire Salim Said Bakhresa built Media Empire “Uhai Productions Limited” adding to his already successful Food, Consumer and Manufacturing Goods Empire business. The Broadcasting Media is home to Azam TV Network and also Azam TV Cable, which has found a market in the masses due to its price convenience and accessibility. The Media Conglomerate has extended to neighbourhood nations such as Kenya, Uganda and even Malawi. Through this media, the billionaire has garnered Influence not only in the society as he has offered an affordable cable option and also provided job opportunities to individuals in the TV Network he runs.

Despite media like The Washington Post thriving under such ownership, the question whether it is okay for Billionaires to own press is fully not addressed. Will they be able to ensure that the Media ventures maintain Independency from their own individual interests? Will they restrain themselves in promoting their own political interests and their own bidding? In United Kingdom alone, it was reported by The Sun, that five (5) billionaires own 80% of UK Media, which is massive and makes you question whether or not the businesses they own actually practice real journalism. To be honest, the money they own is in a great position to fuel intensive investigative reporting and help stories that are hidden come to limelight. Nevertheless, it is a risk to have a monopoly section have full ownership and financial control over the media, which is supposed to be free and democratic in the first place. But in this modern age, publications and broadcasts are ready to bear that risk as long as these saviors keep pouring their money to fund their operations.