Saturday, June 20, 2009

NBC--Ambassadors Of Hypocrisy

On the June 13 Nightly News, Lisa Myers reported on the Obama administration's practice of awarding ambassadorships to people who had contributed large sums to the Obama presidential campaign. The examples Myers cited were Louis Susman (appointed as ambassador to Great Britain), who had donated $400,000 to the Obama campaign; Charles Rivkin (France), who had donated $800,000; and John Roos (Japan), who had donated $500,000. First of all, it's obvious why Nightly News aired this report. In recent weeks, NBC News has been harshly criticized for their soft and compliant coverage of Pres. Obama. This was especially obvious when Brian Williams tossed softball questions at the President during his "Inside The Obama White House" special. So in light of this criticism, the NBC News producers scrambled to find a story that could be considered critical of the Obama administration. Hence the story on ambassadorships.

But the contrivance of this story pales next to its hypocrisy. Nightly News frequently airs stories solely for the purpose of giving positive news coverage to their regular advertisers and sponsors. Recent examples include Robert Bazell's May 12 story about Cheerios, a May 5 story about the launch of McDonald's new gourmet coffees, a Feb. 23 story on how spotlessly clean United Airlines keeps their planes and a Jan. 31 pre-Super Bowl story prominently featuring Lifewater, a sponsor of the following day's Super Bowl. And of course, there is Brian Williams's unforgettable fawning interview with Chrysler executive Jim Press that aired a year-and-a-half ago. That interview set the all-time gold standard for rewarding advertisers with positive news coverage.

It is unbelievable that NBC has the nerve to accuse the Obama administration of doing what they themselves do for their advertisers on a regular basis. Offering ambassadorships in exchange for campaign contributions is no different than airing "news stories" that laud the products of high-paying advertisers. Both practices are corrupt. Of course the meager six-figure amounts that Susman, Rivkin and Roos donated in exchange for their ambassadorships pale in comparison to the millions of dollars paid by NBC advertisers who were in turn given favorable segments on Nightly News. Somewhere, an NBC executive is laughing at the Obama administration for accepting so little in exchange for an ambassadorial appointment. Meanwhile, I wonder if Jim Press is interested in becoming an ambassador. It's probably less stressful than his current job, Deputy CEO of Chrysler. I'm sure Brian can use his influence to arrange a meet-and-greet between Mr. Press and President Obama. And here's an idea: Jim Press could even use some of that Chrysler TARP money to pay for his ambassadorship. Now that's thinking outside the box.

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