In Brief— At the suggestion of a reader, Bay provides an abbreviated glimpse at the corporate politics he encountered in his years at Fox Broadcasting Company. Originally, three parts were planned, but this Part 4 will extend the franchise. No further parts are contemplated at this time. But you never know.
FLASH! EXTRA! BE SURE TO READ THE IMPORTANT UPDATE AT THE END!
As a reminder of how it all started, at least from my arrival on the scene, here are the facts. In the fall of 1986, I was contacted by Fox Broadcasting Company (FBC) and told that I had been recommended for a job as the broadcast standards (BS&P) advisor in the new broadcasting company conservative tycoon Rupert Murdoch was putting together. If I were interested I should contact the newly appointed company president, Jamie Kellner. I was interested.
I made a list of recommendations, met Mr. Kellner and explained how I believed FBC should proceed. My presentation was effective. I was hired. Although the consensus was that it couldn’t be done, Murdoch and Diller thought otherwise. I felt it was worth the gamble in view of the management. Little did I realize what I was getting into.
To tell you how naïve I was, I believed that as a widely-doubted new venture, everybody should work toward achieving the same goal: success in spite of the doubts of broadcast industry insiders that FBC didn’t have the chance of a snowball in Hell. Initially, my belief was on target. The small staff assembled by Mssrs. Murdoch and Diller cooperated in reaching the goal, but no sooner was the venture deemed a success, than the egotistical maneuvering began. Each department head—that is to say, the horde of vice presidents—began trying to impress Murdoch and Diller by throwing subtle elbows at the others. Politics had reared its ugly head and continued throughout my tenure.
Office location was part of the political game. Having an office in the administration building was desirable, particularly on the second floor where the biggies had their offices. I didn’t play that game, although in retrospect, it probably would have been smart even though I knew that broadcast standards (BS&P) was considered the poor second cousin. Eventually, BS&P had decent office space…around the corner from the administration building.
When David Grant—of whom I have spoken in less than fond terms—was inserted between me and Jamie Kellner, we had a get-acquainted meeting in my office. Among other features of his new job, I pointed out the level of professionalism of the editors. Slumped on the couch, Grant gave the impression that he was just going through the motions. Later, in his ignorance, he remarked that BS&P was “simple.” Months later, after he had already made our job more difficult by his political moves, he whined to one of the editors that BS&P “will be the death of me [Grant].”
One of Grant’s brilliant moves was to buy a package of completed theatrical films, the first of which put BS&P in the position of either making a mockery of our standards or cutting the film for acceptability thereby rendering it incomprehensible. I pointed this out to Grant in clear terms. His response was, “Cut it!” His political—and censorious—attitude was the buy was more important. A political decision resulted in corporate stupidity and departmental stress. It had “conflict-of-interest” written all over it. The next time you hear some ignoramus talk about how pure corporations are, think of this.
A believable rumor was that Keenen Wayans and top Fox management had clashed over a buy-out of In Living Color. Although Wayans had created what had become one of FBC’s successful shows and would be forced into giving up control, it appears that corporate muscle won out. Revealingly, it was at this time that Keenan no longer appeared on the set of the show. I have since heard that there was considerable stress affecting those on the show.
A Revealing Tantrum—
A legendary Diller tantrum was promised earlier. As mentioned, I arrived slightly late at the weekly executive meeting because of an important phone call. Besides the not-unusual appearance of a new face at the table, I later learned that on this occasion the new face was a guest of Mr. Diller and I had missed the introduction. When my turn came, in keeping with the custom I presented the current BS&P problem. It seems that this embarrassed Diller in front of his guest.
A colleague and I were enjoying a post-meeting lunch in the commissary when a red-faced Diller burst through the front door under a full head of steam. As if by magic, all the waiters suddenly disappeared. At a volume that peeled paint from the walls, Diller screamed that I had embarrassed him in front of his guest. To say I was dumbfounded is an understatement. Without giving me a chance to defend myself, he spun and exited. He had done his political duty and scolded me…in effect, for doing business as usual. At the next meeting, not a word was said and nothing ever came from it.
Finally, there is my resignation. Burned out from long hours and battles with Grant, I submitted my resignation and pitched Maurie as the person best qualified to take over the department. Grant disliked Maurie and saw the opportunity to name a minority as the head of the department. I can certainly understand the choice if the individual had the qualifications for leadership. Unfortunately, as history shows, the named man was less than qualified. I pointed that out to Grant, but he had the bit between his teeth. Ironically, Grant subsequently turned to Maurie for guidance in tough situations.
The Ugly Truth—
That expands a bit on the politics I recall encountering at FBC. There was more, of course, because corporate politics is an everyday occurrence in not just FBC but at every corporation on Earth.
Remember, corporations are in business to make a profit and they are run by fallible humans. They have no conscience and no soul. Their purpose is profit. Anyone who believes otherwise is engaging in wishful thinking. Reality.
You can review earlier parts by tracking down below Part 4. Let me know if you have any questions or comments.