The Limits of Synergy?

According to The Guardian newspaper in the UK, Fox News threatened to sue Simpsons creator Matt Groening over a spoof of the news channel in a recent episode of his popular cartoon sitcom — which runs on sister channel Fox Entertainment. The offending episode included a fake Fox News ticker running across the bottom of the screen with phrases such as “Pointless news crawls up 37 percent” and “Do Democrats cause cancer?”

Quoting from an NPR Radio interview, The Guardian reports Groening saying, “Fox said they would sue the show and we called their bluff because we didn’t think Rupert Murdoch would pay for Fox to sue itself.” Though the lawsuit never materialized (and Fox News employees apparently deny the threat ever happened), The Simpsons may no longer run fake news tickers in any of its episodes, “because it might confuse the viewers into thinking it’s real news,” Groening says.

On the surface, this may look like just another example of Fox News’ decided lack of a funny bone (see its dismissed lawsuit against liberal satirist Al Franken, which first hit FC Now in August), but there may be a larger business issue at stake: Is this further evidence that “synergy” is a rotten concept? Does the integration — or at least, interaction — of different divisions of large corporations interfere with the ability to do their individual jobs well? If Fox News can meddle with the creative product of Fox Entertainment, how can we be sure that some other division of Rupert Murdoch’s corporate empire isn’t meddling with the news?