Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nightly News Ignores Bad News About McDonald's

On Monday, the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity released a study detailing the ways in which the major fast food chains market their unhealthy food to children. The CBS Evening News featured this report as their lead story, giving it more than three-and-a-half minutes. CBS deserves credit for airing this story, since they certainly must have ticked off the fast food companies that advertise on their network. Nightly News, on the other hand, chose to accede to the wishes of the fast food giants and squelched the story. That's not surprising. Nightly News has a history of protecting their sponsors by burying or ignoring negative news stories. And fast food companies like McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and Subway are certainly among NBC's most frequent sponsors. Here are some of the highlights from the study that you didn't see on Nightly News (a longer synopsis can be read at http://opa.yale.edu/news/article.aspx?id=7981):

*Out of 3,039 possible kids’ meal combinations, only 12 meet the researchers’ nutrition criteria for preschoolers. Only 15 meet nutrition criteria for older children.
*At least 30% of the calories in menu items purchased by children and teens are from sugar and saturated fat.
*Companies facing increasing pressure about portion sizes are renaming, rather than eliminating, their biggest sides and drinks. At Burger King, for example, a 42-ounce “King” drink is now the “large” option; the former “large” 32-ounce drink is now a “medium”; the former “medium” 21-ounce drink is now a “small”; and the former “small” 16-ounce drink is now the “value” option.
*The average preschooler sees almost three ads per day for fast food; children ages 6-11 see three-and-a-half ads; and teens ages 12-17 see almost five ads per day.
*Compared with 2007, in 2009 preschoolers saw 21% more ads for McDonald’s, 9% more for Burger King, and 56% more for Subway. Children (ages 6-11) saw 26% more ads for McDonald’s, 10% more for Burger King, and 59% more for Subway.
*McDonald's' 13 websites get 365,000 unique child visitors ages 2-11 and 294,000 unique teen visitors ages 12-17 each month. Targeted marketing for fast food starts as young as age 2 through websites such as Ronald.com.
*African American children and teens see at least 50% more fast food ads than their white peers. McDonald’s and KFC, in particular, specifically target African American youth with TV advertising, targeted websites, and banner ads.

Although Nightly News did not report the Yale Rudd study, here are some of the stories they did run on Monday:

*A story on personal downsizing called "Back to Basics" that describes how people are reducing clutter and getting rid of many of their possessions. In what alternate universe does this qualify as news? (By the way, CBS News aired an identical story on Oct. 26.)
*Another story on Edison Pena, the Chilean miner who ran the NYC marathon. (Nightly News aired a story on Pena the previous night as well.) The story also contained some self-promotional footage of Meredith Vieira and Al Roker completing the marathon.
*A story about increased security in airports reported by Tom Costello. Last Tuesday and Wednesday, Costello was in Denver covering the election. By Thursday, he was back in Washington reporting on the problems Qantas was having with their Airbus A380 planes. During Monday's airport security story, Costello was still in Denver--so the story was clearly a leftover from last week.
*Yet another two minute excerpt from Matt Lauer's interview with George W. Bush. When did Nightly News become the promotional arm for Bush's book tour? (Meanwhile, I think I actually saw steam coming out of Brian's ears as a result of being passed over in favor of Lauer for the role of interviewer.)
*A story about the 1960 Presidential election. While Brian told us that Kennedy's margin of victory was just over 100,000 votes, he never mentioned the charges of vote fraud in Illinois and Texas that may have given the election to Kennedy and Johnson. He also did not mention the way in which the Kennedy family manipulated the choice of JFK's successor in the senate that allowed Ted Kennedy to eventually win the seat (they used their influence with the Governor of Massachusetts to get him to appoint a place holder until 1962, by which time Ted was old enough to run in that year's special election). Why does Brian feel a personal responsibility to protect the myth of Camelot?
*Special mention goes to the weekend producers for airing two stories (on both Saturday and Sunday) about Zenyatta's near-win in the Breeders' cup. We certainly needed those four-plus minutes of the horse running and drinking Guinness.

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