Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 8, 2009

THE NETWORKS' 'GOODWILL'.... President Obama will host a prime-time news conference tomorrow night, presumably to answer questions about the economy and his stimulus package. We're in a time of crisis, and it stands to reason the president wants to respond to Americans' concerns.

The networks, however, are apparently having a fit. The press conference, they say, will eat up an hour of prime time, which may cost broadcasters "more than $9 million in lost ad revenue."

One network exec whined, "Do people really want to come home after looking for a job, or after being at a job they hate, sit down to veg out in front of their favorite show -- and he's on again?" The exec went on to say that the typical American's reaction might be "nothing he's going to say is going to help me get a job, or put food on the table," adding, "He could lose a lot of goodwill doing this."

Eric Boehlert responded:

Combined, the networks control more than one hundred hours of primetime programming each week. Obviously, they can make-up a handful of lost ad slots because of Obama's primetime address, just as networks have done for decades.

And then there are the bitter, nameless TV execs quoted in the article. (Ungrateful suits whose networks have made billions using the public airwaves free of charge.) The unvarnished disdain for Obama and the contempt for public discourse expressed is just astounding.

Maybe the networks got spoiled by a press-averse president for eight years, but the notion that the president might want to field a few questions, and address Americans' concerns in the midst of a economic crisis, seems pretty reasonable -- which more than I can say for executives' whining.

I'd just add one thing: many of these same networks that are poised to lose some ad revenue (ABC, CBS, NBC) are the same outlets that want to cash in on President Obama's popularity. When he can make them a few bucks in DVD sales, the networks love the president. When he wants an hour of prime time to address a national crisis, Obama runs the risk of "losing a lot of goodwill."

Steve Benen 8:55 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (45)

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These are the sort of people who are piloting our corporate enterprises and express its culture. "It figures." And to Republicans/conservatives, how about "country first"?

Posted by: Neil B ☺ on February 8, 2009 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

Don't be surprised to see the cable networks impose their own version of the "fairness doctrine" -- giving a panel of GOP Hooveristas an amount of time equal to Obama's to distort and lie about what the President said.


Posted by: SteveT on February 8, 2009 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

Obama might want to show these network execs the ThinkProgress charts showing the imbalance of political representation, and then mutter the words "Fairness Doctrine". It might cause a few heart attacks, but I've always wanted an occasion for wearing a red dress.

Posted by: Danp on February 8, 2009 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

You'd think people actually like the tripe networks air night after night. There's a difference between turning on the TV, and actually enjoying it.
I'm sure there are a handful of people who will be upset to miss an episode of Dancing with Has Beens, or Survivor: Detroit (or whatever incarnation they're on now) but we're talking about a popular President addressing the nation in a time of crisis. Their ratings might actually improve.

Posted by: JoeW on February 8, 2009 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

the suits are bitching because Mondays are strongish for them (comedy lineup on CBS, 24 on Fox, Heroes on NBC...). Those same suits would've done jig o' joy had Obama scheduled this press conference for Friday or Saturday.

More than escapism, Americans are looking for good news. The stimulus Obama is proposing potentially IS good news. People will watch. It's a shame they can't convince Obama to take commercial breaks- they'd probably break each others' necks getting in ass-kissing positions were Obama to do that.

Posted by: slappy magoo on February 8, 2009 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

People still WATCH network T.V.?

Posted by: dontcallmefrancis on February 8, 2009 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know how representative this one bitter nameless exec. is for the networks as a whole. Personally, I think this is much ado about nothing.

Posted by: john d'oh on February 8, 2009 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

All the whinging about how it's not on a Friday or a Saturday...Just because the Bush administration released bad news on days that no one was watching teevee.

I see this as another good move on Obama's part to get past the talking heads. They're just miffed because they won't be able to filter whatever Obama's saying through their kidneys and piss it out in five-second soundbites.

Posted by: grape_crush on February 8, 2009 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

we're talking about a popular President addressing the nation in a time of crisis. Their ratings might actually improve.

Spot on. What the 'typical American' wants is information, and someone who talks to them directly about the most important issue of their lives. Go figure.

These network execs have been feeding at the trough for years themselves - TV prints money for everyone involved (including performers, writers, co-co-executive producers, etc.)
The 'typical American' doesn't own those airwaves, and certainly doesn't profit from them.

Frank Rich writes in today's NYT about the tsunami of rage now directed at bankers and financial fatcats. I'd add 'network executives' to that list. We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore. Soon enough, we'll be aiming that rage at cable companies with monopolies that keep raising rates...

Funny - I never see "Network" on the public airwaves. Guess it's too close to home.


Posted by: brooklyn on February 8, 2009 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

the problem is the networks were "spoiled" by the complete absence of that piece of shit who was formerly president.

add that to the fact that obama speaking directly to the american people robs the mouse circus of its ability to control the president's message through their interpretative dance and you get a lot of angry villagers.

Posted by: karen marie on February 8, 2009 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

who was the network exec?

"Do people really want to come home after looking for a job, or after being at a job they hate, sit down to veg out in front of their favorite show -- and he's on again?"

this is an incredible quote and sums up perfectly why the United States has passed circling the drain and is now on it's way to a leeching field.

Posted by: grinning cat on February 8, 2009 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

It is much deeper than this. They like Rush want him to fail. They are on the other side of the ideological fence. This is why the corporate media supports the Republicans. Because their economic agenda (the agenda that created the mess) is in alignment with the Republican's. They were cheerleaders for Bush's war because they are war profiteers. They were supportive of Bush's anti-labor pro business economic policies because that is what they are. They are in short, rich corporatists and they are not going to go quietly into the good night. Even though it is their preferred policies that are taking the country down, they will not relinquish power just because of a silly election.

Posted by: SW on February 8, 2009 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

What they say:

How dare President Obama ask for an hour of prime time tee vee to speak to the American people in a time of crisis!

Who the hell does he think he is? How uppity! How presumptuous!

What they want to say:

Someone tell that uppity nigger to get back in the fields!

Posted by: Winknandanod on February 8, 2009 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

Let them complain, consider it payback for the slanted coverage we've seen on this stimulus. There was an overwhelming number of republicans paraded through with their complaints of the package, whereas those in support were barely visible. If they would have been more balanced in their array of opinions, this might not have been necessary.

Posted by: Julie on February 8, 2009 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

I suppose this guy is from the same network that did such a good job of investigating Bush and Cheney's claims about WMD in Iraq? The network that did the definitive reporting about redistribution of wealth UP the ladder as a result of Bush's tax cuts? The network that kept Bush accountable on his promise to capture or kill Osama bin Laden?

Posted by: tomeck on February 8, 2009 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

One thing I don't get is, CNN was founded by Ted Turner - a liberal (?) who married Jane Fonda, for chrissake! Yet they seem about as bad as other networks (now I'm including cable/broadcast together.) Did he sell off too much of his interests? You'd think Ted would have left some managers in there sympathetic to liberal interests.

Posted by: Neil B ☺ on February 8, 2009 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Are there no leaders in TV land? Who cares about mid-level exec weenies?

Posted by: Bob M on February 8, 2009 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

This is why the Republicans are having such a hissy-fit about the fairness doctrine. They have a tacit agreement with the networks to have their view more heavily represented on television. Three Republicans and a right leaning host for every Democrat (and find the dumbest Democrat you can find).

I'm canceling my cable service.

Posted by: Winkandanod on February 8, 2009 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Turner sold over a decade ago. He's out. His people are out. It's part of the Borg.

Forget about it, Jake. It's Chinatown.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on February 8, 2009 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

This isn't just the networks; for all we know, it's not even the networks. Who at the Washington Post made the decision to run with this story, and to allow the anonymous sourcing?

It is, of course, a free country, and any of the networks that wanted to decline the president's request for airtime would be perfectly within its rights to do so. If they needed the ad revenue so badly and thought they could get it, they could take the heat. But they know that everyone will be watching the president.

Posted by: paul on February 8, 2009 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

MSM, bought and paid for by the Rethugs.

Posted by: SteveA on February 8, 2009 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe we can keep a running tally: How many times the networks show Ann Coulter vs how many times they show President Obama

Posted by: Andy on February 8, 2009 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

In case anyone is interested, "the suits" in Hollywood are almost uniformly Republicans.

Disney-TV (ABC), General Electric-TV (NBC) and Viacom-TV (CBS). Their corporporate interests come before everything. Being a "public service" is something they don't understand.

Posted by: TCinLA on February 8, 2009 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

As far as Ted Turner "leaving" some executives sympathetic to liberal causes at CNN, please remember that sale was over 15 years ago. Not to mention that such deals are never a part of any sale - the old goes out with the old owner while the new owner replaces all.

Posted by: TCinLA on February 8, 2009 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Here's a novel little approach:

A GOP shill "suit", working for Network "A" (try to imagine the quotation marks as big black mouse ears; I haven't figured out how to type mouse ears on either side of the letter A yet), decides that it's bad policy for POTUS to address the nation regarding what might well be a global economic "Depression." The Government plays the "censorship" card, and makes a policy decision that all future stimulus funds, bailout monies, and other incentives disbursed to alleviate the economic malaise "cannot be used to promote and/or further enable censorship of the duly-elected administration's Constitutional Right and Responsibility to keep the People duly informed of its goals."

Threatened with loss of economic assistance during the fiscal crisis, companies who might otherwise have bought big chunks of ad-time with Network "A" (nope---still can't get that mouse ears thing to work) now have to cancel their contracts and take their business elsewhere, resulting in shill-suit being told to either STFU or take a long walk off a short window-sill---about thirty stories or so off the ground.

Threaten the network's cash inflow, and they'll change their tune rather quickly, I'd think....

Posted by: Steve W. on February 8, 2009 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Steve W.

And the entire right wing noise machine rises in a body against the mean democrats interfering with an importand and profitable business.

Posted by: paul on February 8, 2009 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

At moments like this, unstated assumptions of access, privilege and power intersect just at the surface for all to witness.

For the privileged and powerful to simply grant access that may change the way vested interests have operated unabated now for the past 20 years is to commit treason on their enjoyed and often unquestioned status here in the good ol'USA.

As such, the whining we hear is merely the reminder of the ill-begotten power, privilege and access these media firms have taken for granted now for far too long! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on February 8, 2009 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

The one 'prime time' news conference held by the Corporate Hero called Bush was just before he and the Corporations invaded Iraq. And that 'press conference' was entirely 'scripted' without the public being told to this effect. So there we had the 'president' who had pre-arranged scripted answers that were written for him to memorize, and the pres-scripted 'questions' that were written by the Administration itself. The spectacle of this was fucking mind boggling. There we had the 'president' dramatically presenting himself on stage, and the PRE-ARRANGED 'reporters' who had been picked by the Administration to 'ask' the pre-arranged questions to the 'president' who had the pre-scripted answers to the scripted questions. The illusion of the 'press conference' was so complete that they actually 'arranged' for 'reporters' to raise their hands as if they could be called up, knowing that they would not be. And the main ring leader of the 'reporters' who played out this illusion for the American people. That's right Mr David 'swollen lips' Gregory of the General Electric Corporation. It was a complete deception of the American people. So that the Corporations = Bush and his goons could go to war. This was the only 'prime time' news conference that the Shit Stain called Bush ever had. Do any of us remember that the 'executives' of these Corporate Media propaganda organs were complaining about 'lost revenue' then ?
Welcome to America as it actually is.

Posted by: stormskies on February 8, 2009 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

I don't see where they have a whole helluva lot of choice. Let 'em squeal.

Posted by: Steve High on February 8, 2009 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

As I recall, the quid pro quo for broadcasters to use the public air is specified in the Communications Act as operating in "the public interest, convenience, and necessity."

Posted by: Etaoin Shrdlu on February 8, 2009 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

"Do people really want to come home after looking for a job, or after being at a job they hate, sit down to veg out in front of their favorite show -- and he's on again?"

As several other posters have noted, the President will only be on about a half-dozen of the 900 channels or so that most households get. My own plans to watch a CSI re-run for the fourth time will be substantially unaffected :)

Posted by: Jack Keefe on February 8, 2009 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

Here's the thing: Monday night Network TV ratings suck and yet, as slappy said, it's still one of their stronger nights. So, really, what they're pissed off about is that Obama is going to easily beat every one of their shows -- do you really think that the President of the United States talking about the economic crisis will get less than 20 million viewers?

And, yes, when people come home tired and pissed off that they can't find a job or are stuck in a job they hate because they can't afford to lose their health insurance, they want to hear that someone is going to help them. Duh.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on February 8, 2009 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

To stormskies at 11:29am:

Do you have any cites?

I don't doubt you at all -- I just want to be able to back it up if I mention that myself some time.

Posted by: tanstaafl on February 8, 2009 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe they can sell World Cup style ads, and they can even pop up in response to the question being asked/answered. Or the reporter can start off by saying "This question is sponsored by Coke..."

Posted by: tomj on February 8, 2009 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

tanstaafl:
this has actually been well documented by many. a good source is glen greenwald at salon.com .. if you remember that 'press conference' you may recall that even the shit stain himself said at one point ' i have been scripted' in response to one of the 'reporters' 'questions' ....... the bottom line is that this was an intentional 'sell job' by the corporations and the administration working in a coordinated effort to do so. and it is this fact that is the basis of what scott mcllenllan later said was the 'active complicity' of the 'media' to aid and abet what the shit stain and his administration wanted to do: go to war with iraq .........

Posted by: stormskies on February 8, 2009 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

They have a point.
Most folks don't want to see him or hear about it. They want him to fix it, they don't care how and they don't consider themselves a part of the solution and they may be right.

Why not air regular programming and have a bar along the bottom telling people the press conference on the depression recovery is going on and which channel is airing it? (That'd be PBS. Most folks will need to be told what channel number that is.)

Tsk. Such an elitist America hating liberal I am.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on February 8, 2009 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

I don't watch network TV much anymore. Even though I get the local networks on my satellite dish, we probably only watch an hour or two a month. Put the President on, and we will probably watch it.

I don't think my family is that unusual, and I think the networks are full of it. They know that viewer numbers would go up. So tell them to go fuck themselves, they don't have to put the President on TV. Maybe he should go to PBS or maybe the BBC or the Discovery channel. Watch the networks backtrack then.

Posted by: Glen on February 8, 2009 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen noted:

One network exec whined, "Do people really want to come home after looking for a job, or after being at a job they hate, sit down to veg out in front of their favorite show -- and he's on again?"

One quote makes it breathtakingly what America's corporate ruling class thinks of ordinary Americans.

This is your place in life, my fellow Americans -- this is exactly how your corporate overlords want you to spend your life: to spend your days searching for work, or toiling away at a job you hate if you are fortunate enough to have one, and then spend the rest of your waking hours "vegging out" in front of the TV, being programmed with their corporate propaganda, becoming more ignorant and stupid and passive and numb with each commercial that you watch.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 8, 2009 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

The "good will" of corporate executives, media and otherwise, should be way down the list of Obama's priorities.

Moreover, network ad buys typically are made in batches over time, not one ad in a particular time slot. The advertisers will get their time, and the networks their money, just not in that particular hour.

Posted by: allbetsareoff on February 8, 2009 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK
The exec went on to say that the typical American's reaction might be "nothing he's going to say is going to help me get a job, or put food on the table,"

...and the so-called journalist who got the 'scoop' from this anonymous executive, failed to ask the question: "How many jobs have been created by sitting in front of the TV and watching Viagra, Cialis and junk food ads?

Posted by: Bruno on February 8, 2009 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Hi my name is Barak Obama and I am informing you that I want to speak to the country on your station Monday night at eight pm. My people will be in touch to confirm the details and if this presents a problem for you, well, STFU and understand that there is a new sherrif in town and I'm just itchin' to for someone to try to get in the way of real change.

Gotta problem with that? Talk to the hand...........

Posted by: lahru on February 8, 2009 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

All good comments. Yeah, either scroll a msg as to where to tune in the event of actual news related to you directly and the networks can inject their ads and the listeners can work their tivos and mute buttons like normal. I've managed to be without network TeeVee for over 1.5 years and life has improved dramatically. They'll be next for a bailout.

Posted by: Kevin on February 8, 2009 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

I think the networks are full of it. They know that viewer numbers would go up. -- Glen, @13:36

Yeah, but what good is increased viewership to them, if they can't interrupt the program every 5 minutes with 15 minutes of advertising? Where's the profit?

Posted by: exlibra on February 8, 2009 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

it is ridiculous and disastrous in this country that a handful of republicans infesting the boardrooms of corporate media are allowed to control the public airwaves. The answer is simple: take the public airwaves away from them. Distribute the time in raffles to dozens of companies willing to use the public airwaves for the public good - in prime time!

Posted by: pluege on February 8, 2009 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

A desperate race to get the bill passed before the people can understand what's in it.

Posted by: Luther on February 9, 2009 at 1:50 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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