Networks Unhappy About Fulfilling Duties
by Jonathan Singer, Thu Mar 19, 2009 at 07:06:09 AM EDT
The broadcast networks have gotten spectrum -- and for more than a decade two sets of spectrum (the frequencies they historically held and will soon give up, in addition to the newer frequencies for HDTV broadcasts) -- from the American public, in return for which they are expected to fulfill minimal public service requirements mainly related to the news. So when the President of the United States announces that he will hold a prime time press conference, granting more access to these networks' reporters while at the same time enabling him to speak to the American people, and this would only be his second since being sworn in two months ago, you'd think that the networks would keep their carping to a minimum. Apparently not, though.
President Obama's decision to hold another primetime news conference is playing havoc with the networks' sweeps schedules--and causing some in the industry to grumble about the financial impact.
The president has slated a news conference for Tuesday at 8 p.m. EDT, his second since taking office two months ago. CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox all have confirmed they plan to carry it.
The networks won't be happy about it, however.
President Obama had talked to the networks about a primetime speech following the signing of the economic stimulus bill, but opted against it, in part, perhaps, because the networks indicated their displeasure in a Washington Post article published Feb. 6.
"His economic stimulus package apparently does not extend to the TV networks," the Post quoted one network executive as complaining.
It might be one thing if the President were asking for time every night, or once a week, or even once every other week. But it's fairly ridiculous to hear the networks complain about allowing the President to, on occasion, use the public airwaves to speak to the public. Millions of people tune into these broadcasts, so clearly there is an interest, and they serve a function that benefits not only the public but also the networks, whose correspondents get to make news and raise their profiles (think Dan Rather questioning Richard Nixon during a press conference, or NBC grooming David Gregory to take over "Meet the Press" by giving him their chair in the White House). So less whining, please.