News & Views » Columns

PBS meets ICP



The Public Broadcasting System’s “Frontline” program recently provided a disturbing dissection of the interwoven relationship among market researchers, commercial interests, the music industry and television programming aimed at our nation’s teenagers. Those who missed “Merchants of Cool” can check out the transcript and additional material at

Robert McChesney, a communications professor at the University of Illinois, laid bare how a handful of corporations control the media young people use.

These conglomerates, McChesney explains, “own four of the five music companies that sell 90 percent of the music in the United States. Those same companies also own all of the film studios, all the major TV networks, all the TV stations pretty much in the 10 largest markets. They own all or part of every single commercial cable channel.”

And there is one demographic segment they prize above all others.

“They look at the teen market as part of this massive empire that they’re colonizing,” explains McChesney. “Teens are like Africa. You know, that’s this range that they’re going to take over, and their weaponry are films, music, books, CDs, Internet access, clothing, amusement parks, sports teams. That’s all this weaponry they have to make money off of this market.”

Imagine our surprise when Detroit’s own Insane Clown Posse appeared on-screen as a sort of exclamation point emphasizing just how far — and low — some teens will venture in search of cool outside the media mainstream.

“These are the extremes to which teens are willing to go to insure the authenticity of their own scene,” explains correspondent Douglas Rushkoff. “It’s the front line of teen cultural resistance: Become so crude, so intolerable, and break so many rules that you become indigestible.”

The result?

Rushkoff ends his report this way:

“Oh, and by the way, those rebels in clown makeup from Detroit? They signed with a major record label, produced some slick music videos, even got themselves on World Championship Wrestling. And lo and behold, their latest album hit No. 20 on the charts. Welcome to the machine.”

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette, the Metro Times news editor. Call 313-202-8004 or e-mail

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.