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January 18, 2004
Media and Political Notes

A few items from the media that probably don't measure up to a full post on their own, but still seem interesting ...

First this story from the AP regarding comments by Dan Rather on coverage for nominating conventions:

CBS anchor Dan Rather says the day is coming soon when there will be virtually no live coverage of political conventions on television networks. The Democrats and Republicans are to blame for scheduling four-day conventions that do little except advertise their established positions and candidates, he said.

This actually makes sense and it's one of the few times I'll agree with Rather. Modern nominating conventions only serve to anoint predetermined winners and so generate very little in terms of real news. Only the keynote and acceptance speeches have any significance, and networks generally still carry those live (and should continue to do so). They also fail miserably as entertainment, making them even less suitable for wall-to-wall live coverage. How often do you need to hear state delegations announce themselves in the manner of "From the great state of North Slobokodia, home of the largest fossilized bat-dung ball in North America"?

If for some reason no one candidate goes into the convention with a majority of delegates, you can expect the networks to give plenty of live coverage to the real drama as it plays out, and they'll be more than willing to juggle their schedules to do so. Until then, catch them on C-SPAN.

Next comes two separate blurbs from IMDB's Movie & TV News section regarding election issues. First is a report that Howard Dean is getting a much tougher time with the networks than other Democrats:

According to the CMPA, only 49 percent of stories about Dean have been positive versus some 78 percent about his rivals. The study also found that NBC was harder on the Democratic candidates than the other networks, while ABC presented the most positive assessments of them.

While Dean and his supporters will use this report to argue against liberal media bias, the truth lies in Dean's front-runner status and has less to do with anti-Dean sentiment at the networks than with the greater scrutiny that comes with being the one in front. The ABC slant towards the Democrats should surprise no one who has to watch Peter Jennings.

The second item may be even more interesting -- apparently CBS turned down a MoveOn ad during the Super Bowl:

CBS has turned down a request from the liberal group MoveOn to buy a 30-second commercial during this year's Super Bowl that is critical of President George W. Bush. The network said that the ad violated a CBS policy that bars the broadcasting of "issue" ads. A 60-second version of the ad, which is critical of the Bush administration, is due to begin running on CNN beginning Jan. 17.

It's the same rationale CBS used to deny an ad slot to PETA, which lead them to complain that CBS was arbitrary in its decision-making, since CBS has run anti-smoking PSAs during past Super Bowls and run other ads "advocating the consumption of meat". However, CBS is under no obligation to sell ad space to anyone and everyone with money; they can exercise their own editorial control outside of elections, where they have to meet legal standards for equal access. If PETA doesn't like that, they can organize a boycott of the Super Bowl, but seeing as how vegetarians probably don't comprise a significant part of its audience, I doubt it will have much impact.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 18, 2004 10:40 PM

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