Networks That Praise Gates, Bashed Oil Firms
In the mid-1990s, aside from tobacco companies, Microsoft (NYSE: MSFT) and its CEO Bill Gates were perhaps the mediaâs favorite corporate villain. Now heâs a media darling.
On the March 3, 1998, then CBS âEvening News,â anchor Dan Rather suggested Microsoft needed to be reined in by the federal government. âSome policing may be needed along the information superhighway,â he said, adding that âfellow-travelers say Gates is trying to run them off the road.â
A month later on the April 21, 1998, âWorld News Tonight,â ABCâs Peter Jennings warned his audience that âmillions of everyday computer users are still anxious that the more omnipresent Microsoft becomes, the more we computer users will have to do things the Bill Gates way.â
Eight years later, strong profits have put âBig Oilâ in the mediaâs crosshairs while Gates has become a media hero and philanthropist.
Evening newscasts for ABC, CBS, and NBC heaped praise on the Time magazine 2005 Person of the Year on June 15. Gates was lionized for his work as a businessman and a philanthropist, a far cry from their slanted coverage just eight years ago.
âTonight we begin with a man who has truly changed the world, and in the process changed all of our lives,â substitute anchor Campbell Brown began NBCâs âNightly News.â
NBC correspondent Anne Thompson presented Gates as a man of two passions: software and philanthropy. Thompson described Gates as a âvisionary who helped make the computer a device we canât live without.â
ABC and CBS similarly lauded Gatesâs profitable business ventures and his charity work.
âHe is the richest man in the world. He founded the company thatâs had a more profound impact on modern life than any other,â ABCâs Charles Gibson reported, opening âWorld News Tonight.â
But now, gushed Gibson, âRather than making money now, he wants to devote his life to giving it away.â
Over at CBS, âEvening Newsâ anchor Bob Schieffer pronounced an early verdict from history on Bill Gatesâs contributions to the world. âSometimes many years must pass before we can make a real judgment on the impact someone has had on his or her time, but surely that is not the case with Bill Gates, who perhaps more than anyone opened the Internet to people in every part of the world,â Schieffer declared as he set up a report by correspondent Anthony Mason.
Mason went on to note that âMicrosoft has grown to more than 61,000 employees in over 100 countries. It generates almost a billion dollars in profits every month.â
While itâs true Microsoft has changed the world for the better while being strongly profitable, the media donât have the same view of oil companies, which generate far smaller profit margins in a capital-intensive industry.
According to finance.google.com, Microsoftâs net profit margin of nearly 32 percent far out-ranked Exxon-Mobil (NYSE: XOM), ConocoPhilips (NYSE: COP), and BP-Amoco (NYSE: BP) whose 2005 net profit margins were 9.71, 7.28, and 8.8 percents respectively.
Even so, the media have frequently attacked the oil industry for ârecord profitsâ and suggested that a âwindfall profits taxâ is in order to punish their success.