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GAIL WOODS AFTERWORD Plenty 0′ Mergers, Headin’ OurWay. . . BY MARY LENZ TRYING TO FOLLOW the shake-ups and mergers in the media industry is only slightly less complex than trying to figure who’s on first in what’s left of Yugoslavia. The only consolation is that the names are easier to pronounce. Since The Texas Observer has not yet been purchased by Australian media moguls, refrigerator manufacturers or a national hockey conglomerate, our readership remains relatively media-pure \(i.e., serve a little user-friendly explanation of what is going on. Here goes. The people who made Pocahontas and the mermaid movie have scooped up the people who own the people who own Molly Ivins. We can look forward to a featurelength cartoon starring a Texas liberal blonde defending the East Texas frog ponds from a sinister figure closely resembling Senator Phil Gramm. Court TV has become the property of lightbulb manufacturer General Electric, which also owns AMC, Bravo and NBC. This puts RediKilowatt on the O.J. defense team. G.E. also manufactures locomotives and appliances, which means The Little Engine That Could and The Brave Little Toaster will be replacing Tom Brokaw. Westinghouse, which has made everything from office furniture to the turbines at the South Texas Nuclear Project plant, has wound up with CBS and Dan Rather. This means at least four city elections in referendum-happy Austin to determine whether Rather should be forced to provide his own electricity to nearby Lakeway, his home away from home. Mary Lenz is a freelance writer in Austin. Her article was submitted to the Observer neatly typed on plain bond paper, and arrived promptly by U.S. “snail” mail. Rupert Murdoch still owns Fox and TV Guide. From now on, you won’t be able to find times or listings for any of the other networks. The Federal Communications Commission is proposing rules allowing television transmission over microwave frequencies. You’d better use extra caution when slicing open your baked potatoand when you eat your TV dinner, don’t sit too close to the set unless you wish to be very well done. To protect yourself in these confusing times, Observer readers should study carefully Lenz’s Laws of Thermodynamics and Media Technology Stuff. Lenz’s Law No. 1. Never buy new technology, no matter what forms of entertainment it promises to “link up.” The one thousand dollar item of todaylike that calculator you got from Texas Instrumentswill shortly be sold at Target for about four dollars and ninety-five cents. \(Unless it’s a running shoe or a Kevin Lenz’s Law No. 2. Whether it comes over the phone lines, the cable lines, the air waves or the microwaves, media stuff is going to consist mainly of two things: car chases, and women built like they came off the assembly line at the Mattel toy conglomerate. Most people are watching car chases and femme-Mattels; they are not reading twentyfive-inch newspaper articles on public policy. Media mergers are equally ominous for TV network news departments. If Consumers Union and Sierra Club want to win public attention and gain back any of their lost ground, they’d better quit holding press conferences aimed at print media types and hire some rednecks and redheads to drive a Chevy over the edge of the Grand Canyon. For those of us inclined to view with alarm, Disney will become the first media company to distribute its product via cable, broadcasting network and, yes, the telephone lines through side deals cut with Southwestern Bell and two other phone companies. This brings us to Lenz’s Law No. 3. The phone company always wins. However, in practical terms, the Disney deal is fairly simple to grasp. Basically, it means that the only household orifices not capable of blasting “Zippety Doo Dah,” “It’s a Small World,” and “Beauty and the Beast” into your living room will be the chimney and the toilet bowl. I wouldn’t depend too much on the sanctity of the chimney. But count your blessings. It could have been Time Warner. \(“Got a Congressional zap, fo’ gangsta rap, tryin’ to dump it in somebody else’s lap, and that ain’t no…zipOn the other hand, the Disney deal also meansthere will be absolutely no escape from Pocahontas. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23