ABC-TV: Oscar-Worthy, But Journalistically Unsound



by Walter Brasch


            The last segment on every Friday's broadcast of ABC-TV's "World News," with Diane Sawyer, is a "Person of the Week."

            Usually, those persons have gone out of their way to do something good for people, or have lived a long and distinguished life, or by their example give inspiration to others.

            Recent "persons of the week" have included a very special caregiver, a wheelchair-bound teen who does wheelchair tricks, and a homeless man who returned $3,300 he had found.

            However, this past Friday, the "Persons of the Week" were two actors. There's nothing wrong with honoring actors and others in the creative arts. They bring us joy and, often, intellectual stimulation. But, the reason ABC News honored Anne Hathaway and James Franco had little to do with acting—and everything to do with advertising.

            ABC is broadcasting the Oscars, Sunday, and Hathaway and Franco are the hosts. To justify their inclusion, Sawyer led off the segment by telling us: "The torch will be passed to a new generation. The baby boomers no longer hosting the Oscars."

            But, for two and a half minutes, we learned about Hathaway and Franco, and not the story of a change in the Industry. We even learned about what each would like to know about the other.

            In television, ratings, mixed with some demographic analyses, determine the price of advertising. The range for 30 second ads for scripted prime time shows is about $50,000–$250,000. For the Super Bowl, with the largest audience, 30-second ads this year went for about $3 million. ABC, which sold all ad time for the primetime Oscars telecast, charged about $1.7 million for 30 seconds advertising. ABC pays about $65 million to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the broadcast rights. The Disney-owned company expects about $80 million revenue and is hoping for at least 43 million viewers for the telecast. And that doesn't include the advertising for the pre-Oscar "red carpet" show, or the on-air promotions for Disney-owned productions.

            By Industry standards, if the ratings tank, ABC would have an obligation to return money to advertisers, something it definitely doesn't want to do.

            So, in addition to running numerous Oscar-related commercials during ad time in the two weeks leading to the Sunday night broadcast, ABC-TV made its "Person of the Week" nothing more than another Oscar promotion to guarantee the network a strong "return on investment."

            That decision alone damages a news operation's credibility.


[Assisting on this column was Rosemary Brasch. Walter Brasch is a journalist/columnist, the author of 16 books, including Sex and the Single Beer Can: Probing the Media and American Culture (3rd ed.). He is a retired professor of mass communications and journalismYou may contact him at]



Gore gives Snow some wood in blogger conference call

Via Think Progress:

Tony Snow said today of Al Gore's new book: "I don't know if they're going to do a reprinting of the book to try to get the facts straight. The fact-checkers may have to take a look at it."Gore responded on a blogger conference call: "This book, unlike the President's State of the Union Address, has been fact-checked."Taylor Marsh has full audio of the call.
The conference call on Gore's new book, The Assault On Reason, was an hour long. It sounds like one hell of a book, from the reviews that I have read and from listening to Al Gore talk about it for an hour. And guess what, not a single "horserace" question-- imagine that Diane Sawyer! Gore was loose, lucid, and engaging, chuckling throughout the conversation while the bloggers asked questions. No need for me to ramble on about it, listen to the audio (mp3).

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Glenn Beck's common senselessness

All-around bad guy Glenn Beck, you'll recall, is joining ABC's "Good Morning America". While ABC's rightturn isn't the news here, what is remarkable is the degree to which supposedly reputable journalists - in this case Diane Sawyer - have fallen all over themselves to pander to the lowest-common denominator. Reported Beck, when talking about his joining "Good Morning America", "She [Sawyer] said to me, 'It's nice to watch someone you think you're going to disagree with ... but at least there's some common sense behind it.'" Diane, would you mind if I asked you a few questions?

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