Bonum Certa Men Certa

Microsoft Investment in Mexican Media Could Buy Influence

"Working behind the scenes to orchestrate "independent" praise of our technology, and damnation of the enemy's, is a key evangelism function during the Slog. "Independent" analyst's report should be issued, praising your technology and damning the competitors (or ignoring them). "Independent" consultants should write columns and articles, give conference presentations and moderate stacked panels, all on our behalf (and setting them up as experts in the new technology, available for just $200/hour). "Independent" academic sources should be cultivated and quoted (and research money granted). "Independent" courseware providers should start profiting from their early involvement in our technology. Every possible source of leverage should be sought and turned to our advantage."

--Microsoft, internal document [PDF]



One pet peeve of ours is gross bias in the media, which is heavily influenced by those who pay the writers and the editorial team through investments, those who advertise, and those whose channel has a general focus on. We shed some light on this in the past using actual examples and also arguing that the mainstream media is likely to praise the Novell/Microsoft deal while ignoring all -- or at least most -- existing criticisms. In addition, we showed the tremendous influence which Bill Gates (personally) and Microsoft have on the media, by means of funding. This is not something that they brag about publicly, but some disclosures are made obligatory.

Here comes another disclosure of Gates' holdings. It reveals yet more contact with another media company, which is bound to lead to some bias.

Other bets by Gates’s investment vehicle included the Mexican media company Grupo Televisa, the Mexican brewer Fomento Economico Mexicano and the waste-management company Republic Services.

Gates has invested in several energy ventures, including ethanol producer Pacific Ethanol and PNM Resources, a utility based in Albuquerque, NM. Another investment, Minnesota-based Otter Tail Corporation (NASD: OTTR), provides electric power, as well manufacturing and health services.


The generous investment in energy is worth noting too, for reasons that were mentioned in the past. There is a lot to explore here, including the politics (pet charities in particular) and influence on public opinion.

Getting back to coverage in the media though, the Federal Communications Commission refuses to intervene with corporate control. Microsoft is reportedly keeping dossiers on journalists and inviting some of them for free trips, sometimes resulting daemonisation gigs that warp perceptions of a given situation. Microsoft makes decent use of enormous influence in trade journals. It's virtually everywhere, but it's taken for granted.

Looking back at events that were reported a decade ago, here is what you find. Not only praises are encouraged, but damnation of competing technologies, as the quote at the top reveals, is part of this routine. And then there's gagging, silencing of unflattering coverage.

In three separate legal actions, Microsoft has been using the courts in an attempt to smoke out sources, challenge the first-amendment rights of writers and reporters, and chill press coverage and public disclosure of important information that it prefers remain secret.

Two of these cases have been conducted publicly, and one in secret. In early October, Microsoft subpoenaed the source materials of Dan Goodin, a reporter for the online news organization C/NET, and a hearing on the matter will take place next week. Appealing a lower court decision that denied its demand for source materials, Microsoft is still pursuing access to these materials from the authors of Competing on Internet Time, Harvard professor David Yoffie and MIT professor Michael Cusomano.


Not much has changed since then. At the moment, Microsoft battles the courts in a collusion case to prevent further disclosure of criminal material (internal E-mails) and occasionally we find it censoring or reprimanding the media, to this date. Trust gradually erodes not just because of commercialisation of reporting, but also because outside parties have vested interest; and they have no shame.

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