At the urging of Chiquita Brands, a unit of the American Financial Corporation and the world’s largest banana producer, the Clinton Administration is seeking to overturn an agreement that guarantees small Caribbean banana farmers special access to the European Union market.
“Why is America doing this to us?” Mr. Prosper, 53, asked as his crop was being boxed at a weighing station here the other day. “This is a little place, and this is all that we know and what we depend on. We have nothing else and we hurt nobody, but now they want to take even this from us.”
Much as in neighboring Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, one-quarter of the labor force in this country of 145,000 people is employed in the banana industry, either growing, processing, or shipping the fruit. In contrast to Central America, where workers paid as little as $2 a day grow most of Chiquita’s bananas, Caribbean banana workers are mostly independent growers who own the small plot they farm (Rohter 1997:A6).
A notable feature of the biggest recent mergers is that the firms dominating this process are not media companies in a strict sense: Disney is avowedly a “family entertainment communication company” in the business of selling theme parks, toys, movies, and videos. Its focus, in the words of CEO Michael Eisner, is on the provision of “non-political entertainment and sports.” Time Warner has a similarly wide spectrum of business interests and a comparable marketing orientation. Disney and Time Warner are what Herbert Schiller calls “pop cultural corporate behemoths.”
Westinghouse, by contrast, has long been primarily a nuclear power and weapons producer, with its media interests generating only 10 percent of sales revenue. With the Westinghouse takeover of CBS, two of the three top networks are controlled by large firms in the politically sensitive nuclear power/weapons industries (the other is NBC’s owner General Electric, which along with Westinghouse is one of the top 15 U.S. defense contractors). (Herman 1996)
“A mainstay of the mining industry is gold, which is being extracted from the West faster than ever before, says France. About 85 percent of the gold extracted in the West ends up in jewelry, the rest going into products such as electronics.” (DiSilvesto 1996)
“As more private sector organizations learn to use the tools of the political campaign industry, a broad range of corporations, associations, unions, and non-profits are playing a larger, more aggressive role in the shaping of public opinion on matters they deem important…. A study conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania estimated that during the 1995-96 election cycle, one-third of the total dollars spent on advertising in federal elections was attributable to “issue” advocacy efforts.” (Faucheux 1998)