HBO's Bill Maher Imagines Rupert Murdoch as New Boss (Guest Column)
A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
To no one’s surprise, I’m against Fox taking over Henhouse. I mean, Time Warner. And, I must admit, I never saw it coming. So many ways for a guy like me to lose his job, but I never dreamed these two would marry. I thought they were both too big. I should know by now, in American business, nothing is ever too big. Increasing size is a sickness that possesses us — every quarter must show growth. Doing well, and then repeating doing well, is never enough. We must always beat where we are.
There’s a terrible price to pay for this. (I mean besides the terrible price I personally will pay when Rupert takes over HBO and my show becomes Paste-Eating Time With Steve Doocy.) Check out the recording that went viral in July of a Comcast customer service rep arguing endlessly with a customer who wanted to cancel his service. It was like listening to a dysfunctional couple where one of them refuses to accept a breakup — "Please don’t do this … I’ll change … at least stay with me till after my sister’s wedding."
Of course, Comcast apologized and said that’s not how they train their customer reps, but that’s exactly how they, and lots of large companies that have virtual legal monopolies, train their customer reps — the airlines, the cable company, the phone company, the credit card company, the insurance company, the mortgage company. AIG was too big to fail; they’re all too big to care. The service rep isn't there to service the customer, he's there to service the shareholder. It's not about selling goods or providing a service — what do we look like, immigrants with a donut shop? Big business is about eliminating the competition and buying off the regulators so you can concentrate on the real enemy: your customers.
My friends on the right hate big government because it’s unresponsive and unwieldy and corrupt. Really? Have you ever called Verizon? This idea that the free market always works best is quaint in an age where there may be more than one airline but not with a flight going to the place where you want to go. Comcast and Time Warner Cable are No. 1 and No. 2 on the list of worst-rated cable companies. Naturally, they too want to merge, not just for the money but to try to set new lows. Probably they will merge. When was the last time a merger didn't go through? Americans should get it through their heads that dealing with business is the new dealing with government — only far, far worse. Waiting for stamps at the post office or my license at the DMV? Piece of cake next to trying to get something I didn’t buy and don’t want off a bill.
Bill Maher is the host of HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher.