Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nightly News Violates The Viewers' Trust

Once again, the last three minutes of Sunday's Nightly News was devoted to a "news story" whose only purpose was to promote NBC's Sunday Night Football coverage that followed the broadcast. And not surprisingly, the story was about one of the teams playing that night--the San Diego Chargers. Here's how anchor Natalie Morales previewed the story: "Coming up next--how some NFL stars in tonight's big game are fostering hope and making a difference." In the first sentence of his story, Lee Cowan also used the phrase "tonight's big game". Clearly, this is no coincidence. This phrase was strategically inserted into the broadcast to make viewers think that it actually was a "big game". It's like when different politicians all use the same phrase and try to pretend that it's extemporaneous, rather than pre-planned. If two people say it's a big game, then it must be true.

Of course, this isn't the first time the Nightly News producers have used valuable news time to plug NBC's Sunday Night Football coverage. On Sept. 8, Nightly News ran a story about the Vikings' Madieu Williams. And the following night, Brian Williams actually anchored the broadcast from New Orleans just so he could promote that night's Saints-Vikings season opener on NBC. On Sept. 19, Nightly News did a story on Eli and Peyton Manning--right before NBC's Giants-Colts game. On Sept. 26, there was a story about how the NFL recruits young fans. On Oct. 17, we saw a Nightly News story about how members of the Washington Redskins were raising awareness about breast cancer--immediately followed by the Redskins-Colts game. On Oct. 24, the story was about a college football coach who was recalled to active duty in the navy reserve. (On Nov. 14 there was no football story--the story was about the Manny Pacquiao fight. Nightly News was promoting the fight because it would financially benefit Comcast, NBC's soon-to-be owner.) And then there was last Sunday's story about the Chargers.

Is the FCC aware that the sleazebags at NBC are deceiving the viewers by using valuable news time to advertise their football coverage? I hope they are aware and I hope they refuse to allow the Comcast-NBC deal to be finalized until all parties involved agree to stop using Nightly News as a promotional vehicle for NBC's sports coverage. This is an egregious violation of the viewers' trust. We expect the Nightly News producers to fill their broadcast with the most important news stories of the day, not with contrived news stories whose only purpose is to plug NBC's football coverage. It would be nice if Nightly News became a news broadcast once again, instead of the fifth hour of "The Today Show".

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