August 25th, 2013
According to a variety of reports last week, 21st Century Fox bought 5% of VICE for $70 million. 21st Century FOX formerly known as News Corp, values the company at $1.4 billion. In the era of decaying and dissolving journalism, that is quite an accomplishment for an entertainment entity built on a foundation of gonzo journalism. Shane Smith, the co founder and CEO of VICE is very enthusiastic about the deal. His quote, which appeared in each source used for this article is, “We get to make all the content we want? With the best platforms in the world? Grow our brand exponentially? Become the next global media brand? And all the while own the vast majority of the company and vote 95% of the board? Where-do-we-fucking-sign?!”
VICE has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt that they will not change their style. They have held a virtual media stranglehold on the early adopter and hipster segments of the 18-34 year old demographic for the better part of a decade. I am a huge fan of VICE, and full discretion, hope to one day write and report for them in the spirit of what Tim Pool has been doing over the past three years. However, as much as VICE has earned the benefit of the doubt that they won’t be manipulated by FOX, Rupert Murdoch has that much more earned the benefit of the doubt that he will try and succeed in manipulating them. One need only consult the documentary film Outfoxed to see the slow burn narrative Murdoch may use to influence the way VICE presents its content.
When a person signs a deal with the devil, it is always front loaded with benefits. $70 million upfront, barely a sliver of minority ownership given away, and a metaphoric key ring into the media markets of India, Italy, and Germany. VICE seems to have gotten one by “the man” and “the system” by being able to fund their anti establishment style of journalism and media content production. But there is no such thing as something for nothing, and if something seems too good to be true, it is. VICE now has a portfolio of minority owners, all of whom are or have corporate interests. A global talent agency (WME), a global marketing group (WPP), a bank (Raine), and now 21st Century FOX. VICE also habitually uses sponsorship money from Vitamin Water (Coca Cola), Toshiba, Intel, and General Electric. The terms rebel and anti have a permanent restraining order from corporate money and influence companies like that provide, yet VICE keeps getting deeper in with the biggest and most money thirsty.
I believe VICE has positive intentions and that they know what they are doing. I also know that they are the type of entity that welcomes devil’s advocate questions and scrutiny. They are yet to report this story on their own website. I have checked their website repeatedly each day since this story broke and one would only know about this deal because they check other news websites; why is that? 25% of VICE is now owned by international corporations that couldn’t give two fucks about journalism or fact based reporting; what is their specific influence on VICE’s content? Rupert Murdoch has bled his conservative (modern day US Republican party) agenda into all of his media enterprises; when does he try to do this with VICE? Has VICE considered Murdoch could use his influence on their other sponsors and minority owners to do this? Where does VICE selling itself a la carte to the highest bidder end? How is VICE the one media entity that doesn’t allow its content to be watered down and have its balls cut off by high level corporate cash synergy?
I am a fan and a friend of VICE. A bucket list goal of mine is to be a reporter for them. I’m not writing this article with my nose turned up, with a sarcastic tone, or a sense of moral superiority. I am passionate about truth and knowledge/information dissemination. The story of FOX buying into VICE is clouded in translucency rather than transparency. VICE has yet to report it. The only non entertainment, online news entity to report this story, was the original reporters at the Financial Times. Something stinks about this deal and the people and reporters my generation would turn to investigate it further, are the very people excepting $70 million from Rupert Murdoch.