New York (AP) — On the heels of Time Warner's announcement of a $1.46 billion first-quarter profit, the Senate Commerce Committee has announced hearings next week to investigate potential price-gouging.
"All those zeroes," said Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Senate Commerce Committee Chairman, loosening his Incredible Hulk tie. "All those freakin' zeroes!"
"A profit that high cannot possibly be a result of market forces," said Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), a committee member. "I will not stand by idly while hard-working Americans and Vietnam veterans are made to pay obscene prices for substandard news and entertainment."
Commerce Committee staff members have been combing through the media giant's shareholder reports, news articles and other documents for evidence that the company is taking unfair advantage of consumers.
As the nation heads into the busy summer entertainment season, senators are concerned that high prices for Time Warner products are stretching Americans' disposable incomes thin. Others expressed anger at Time Warner's profligate spending.
"They're paying Anderson Cooper $2 million a year for, what, 300,000 viewers a night?" said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) "I mean, that's half of what Brian Williams makes on NBC, but about 6 million fewer viewers."
Richard Parsons, Time Warner chairman and CEO,
receives his annual bonus
"Look at this list of underperforming properties," said Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) "Ratings for 'The Sopranos' are in the toilet. The Atlanta Braves' starting (pitching) rotation has an ERA of – what – like, 12? And Quack.com? What the fuck is that?"
Senators said they intend to press Time Warner to adopt austerity measures.
"Do they really need a 'Fortune 500'?" asked Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) "Isn't 300 or 400 good enough?"
Richard Parsons, chairman and CEO of Time Warner, was reached for comment atop a four-story pile of money.
"The men and women of Time Warner are working hard to shore up this critical sector of the U.S. economy," he said, lighting a fat Montecristo Platinum with a fistful of stock options.
"With Americans importing more of their news from Britain and more of their feature films from Europe, they should be thankful that there are still domestic media leviathans to make them think and laugh."
A Senate Commerce Committee spokesman said hearings would be scheduled for Tuesday, and that Parsons and other top executives could expect tough questioning.
"Like any red-blooded American, I'd fuck Brandon Routh too," said Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) "But $11 is still an awful lot to ask for Superman Returns, and that's even before nachos and a Coke."