Wherein I Agree with the Media

by Brien Jackson

Via Kevin Drum:

But executives at the Big Four broadcast networks are seething behind the scenes that President Obama has cost them about $30 million in cumulative ad revenue this year with his three primetime news conference pre-emptions.

Now top network execs quietly are hoping that Fox’s well-publicized rejection of the president’s April 29 presser will serve as precedent for denying future White House requests for prime airtime.

“We will continue to make our decisions on White House requests on a case-by-case basis, but the Fox decision gives us cover to reject a request if we feel that there is no urgent breaking news that is going to be discussed,” said one network exec, who, like all, would not speak for attribution fearing repercussions from the administration.

“If the president wants to make it tough for your network, he can,” the exec added.

It’s tempting enough to laugh off the executives, or mock them for their unseriousness, or whatever, but then, $30 million is nothing to sneeze at, especially not these days. On the other hand, I’m largely sympathetic to them on the substance of the matter; these press conferences are generally useless, and the idea that every network needs to run them simultaneously is rather silly. I mean, it’s 2009 people. An overwhelming majority of households have cable or satellite television, and those that don’t have PBS. No one is going to be unable to watch the President’s press conferences if CBS, ABC, and NBC networks aren’t airing them. I suppose there’s something to be said for a basic level of civic requirement that goes along with having access to the public airwaves, but even then, I think we’d be better served to have that energy allocated to original reporting. NBC running an original story on embezzlement at the Department of the Interior or exploring the ways defense industry lobbyists cozy up to policy makers to entrench platform manufacturing has a real marginal value to the public information base. NBC airing a press conference that’s running simultaneously on damn near a dozen other networks has no marginal value whatsoever.

Who knows, it might even diminish these sorts of news-as-political theater pieces altogether.