TIME WARNER CONTESTS DOLE'S GANGSTA RAP

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Shareholders aren't the only ones Gerald Levin needs to placate. Now the Time Warner chairman has to fend off attacks from Republican presidential hopeful Robert Dole.

When the senator from Kansas singled out Time Warner last week as a promoter of gangsta rap recordings that extol using violence against police, Mr. Levin and his executives were challenged and insulted.

"I would like to ask the executives of Time Warner a question," Sen. Dole asked during a fund-raising dinner in Los Angeles. "Is this what you intended to accomplish with your careers? You have sold your souls, but must you debase our nation and threaten our children as well?"

The outburst left media analysts unimpressed. And so far, Sen. Dole's attack hasn't hurt Time Warner's stock price. In fact, the media company outperformed its competitors last week.

"It's just political rhetoric," said Jessica Reif, a media and entertainment analyst at Merrill Lynch & Co., New York. "It has nothing to do with the business. It's not even as if there's a boycott."

Mr. Levin has responded to criticism of gangsta rap by directing the heads of his music company to examine the standards of the music industry and the labels used on rap albums. That happened three weeks ago, when former secretary of education William J. Bennett raised the issue at Time Warner's shareholders meeting in Manhattan.

Time Warner executives said they were singled out because they're the largest U.S. record company and questioned the need for such finger-pointing.

Said Michael Fuchs, chairman of the Warner Music Group: "If results are what we are after, it will require constructive discussion rather than a broadside attack on a single corporation."

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