On Tuesday (3/13), The New York Times reported that the Indian government "authorized a drug manufacturer to make and sell a generic copy of a Bayer cancer drug, saying that Bayer charged a price that was unaffordable to most of the nation. The decision by the controller general of patents, designs and trademarks was the first time a so-called compulsory license of a patented drug had been granted in India." Bayer had been selling the drug, Nexavar (also known as sorafenib), for approximately $5,600 a month. The generic will sell for approximately $176 a month. Because of the high price of the Bayer drug, fewer than 200 Indians currently use it. (Read the full Times story at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/13/business/global/india-overrules-bayer-allowing-generic-drug.html) In other words, the sleazebags at Bayer were charging so much for this drug that the Indian government had to step in and order them to allow a cheaper version to be made. Nightly News likes to report on drug companies, but I guarantee that you won't see this story on Nightly News. Bayer is the single most frequent advertiser on Nightly News, usually running three or four ads each night for their various products. Brian Williams and his producers have made it one of their goals to protect their buddies at Bayer. In fact, Nightly News loves to run fawning, glowing stories about Bayer products. For this job, they usually enlist Nightly News's Chief Science Shill, Robert Bazell. On 10/27/11, the lead Nightly News story was Bazell's report about the heart benefits of aspirin. However, the story featured shots of only one national brand--Bayer. It also featured shots of some old-time Bayer print ads and a clip from a current Bayer TV commercial. This was just a shameless product placement for Bayer. Ten months earlier, on the 12/6/10 Nightly News, Bazell had reported the exact same story about aspirin's health benefits, and in that story Bayer was also the only brand shown (along with clips from Bayer ads). And on 6/8/10, Bazell did a story about the health benefits of Naproxen, known in the U.S. as Aleve (made by Bayer). Obviously, these stories were produced as a way of thanking Bayer for all the ad dollars they have spent with Nightly News and other NBC shows over the years. Unless there was a more weaselly motive. These "news stories" may have been purchased by Bayer as part of a Nightly News ad package. For several million dollars, they can get not only a certain number of commercials, but they can also get a news story that highlights the benefits of their product or products. It would not surprise me at all to learn that the Nightly News ad sales people were conspiring with the news producers to create favorable "news stories" for the broadcast's best advertisers. Well done, Nightly News producers.
Here are some of the other great things that happened on Nightly News this week:
Sat. March 10--Nightly News spent 1:20 reporting on Syria. It would be the last story on Syria they do for an entire week.
***A story about the new movie "Bully" (about kids who bully other kids) included a clip from "Ellen" because it's the responsibility of the Nightly News producers to use their broadcast to promote NBC entertainment shows.
***Lester Holt spent 30 seconds telling us about Prince Harry's trip to Rio de Janeiro. Stories about Will, Kate and Harry always generate high ratings, so the producers constantly include the Royals on Nightly News.
***Next, we got a two minute story about a 340-ton boulder being transported through L.A. en route to a museum. Yeah, we know all about it because Brian Williams already spent 30 seconds telling us about the boulder on Friday. Why do we need another two minutes on this silly, pointless story? Because Nightly News specializes in silly, pointless stories, that's why.
***The broadcast ended with a 2:40 story about "pop-up libraries". What do you know--another silly, pointless story. What a surprise.
Sun. March 11--The big news story of the day was the U.S. Army sergeant who massacred 16 Afghan civilians. But Nightly News viewers wouldn't know anything about the story because there was no Nightly News this night (on the east coast, anyway). Obviously, golf was more important than news to the NBC programming weasels.
Mon. March 12--Brian anchored the broadcast from London. I guess he and his wife took a weekend trip there and decided to stay an extra day.
***I can't say this often enough--I love Pete Williams! As Brian introduced Pete's story about voter ID laws, he said, "Good evening, Pete," because it's important to Brian to try to bamboozle the viewers into believing that he is good friends with all the Nightly News correspondents. As usual, Pete would have none of that. Instead of responding with a treacly, "Good evening, Brian," he ignored him and went right into his story. I guess Pete doesn't like Brian very much. Can you blame him?
***Brian spent 40 seconds telling us about the record high temperatures across the country. I'm pretty sure that everyone noticed this without Brian telling us. I think that as a kid, Brian desperately wanted to be a meteorologist because he pretends to be one every night on Nightly News.
***We saw yet another story about Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony--the third Kony story in five days. Obviously, the NBC News research department has informed Brian and his producers that Kony stories generate high ratings. It's good that Nightly News is reporting on this brutal warlord, but the real question is: Why did Nightly News ignore the story for so long? Kony has been terrorizing Ugandans for 25 years, but Nightly News only reported on it after the "Kony 2012" internet film went viral--which again proves the point that Brian doesn't consider something to be newsworthy unless it's first shown in a film, a TV show or a viral video.
***Brian introduced the next story about Venus and Jupiter by saying, "The night sky has been in the news a lot lately...." Yeah--if you watch Nightly News. Brian constantly reports on astronomy-related stories because they're of great interest to HIM (that includes the half-dozen stories Nightly News has reported about the Northern Lights). And let's face it--the news is about what Brian likes. This stuff isn't news on any other network. But as we all know, Brian can do whatever the hell he wants.
***Brian took a break from his obsessive chronicling of JFK (thirteen stories or mentions in less than two months) to spend 2:10 telling us about Richard Nixon's love letters to his wife Pat. Of all the U.S. presidents, I imagine that Brian is most like Nixon--controlling, paranoid, obsessive, secretive, narcissistic. Brian always brags about being a Presidential history buff, so when he wants to do a story on a former president, who's gonna stop him? It seems that Brian is a self-professed buff on a lot of subjects--astronomy, the weather, NASA, the Supreme Court, Nascar, British Royalty. If he were any more buff-y, he could be a vampire slayer.
***Did I just mention British Royalty? What a coincidence. The broadcast ended on that exact subject. First, we saw some footage of Prince Harry frolicking in the Bahamas, followed by shots of the Kate and the Queen on her 60th anniversary Jubilee tour, which then became a story about London preparing for this summer's Olympics. Which will be carried by NBC. So Brian and his producers are using Harry and Kate as a shameless way to promote their Olympic coverage. Nice.
***On Monday's CBS Evening News, they aired a story about a new study highlighting the relationship between sugary sodas and heart attacks. Nightly News often does stories about factors that increase the risk of heart attacks, but they didn't report this story. They wouldn't dare anger their sponsors like Coke, Sprite, Mug Root Beer, 7-Up, Mountain Dew, Orange Crush and Schweppes. CBS, of course, showed all those brands (some more than once) because Scott Pelley's main responsibility is to report news, not to protect his sponsors. [Editor's note: Nightly News did eventually report this story five days after the CBS story ran (3/17) and their story included some clips of brand-name sodas. However, by delaying this story until Saturday, the producers ensured that it would be seen by far fewer viewers than would have seen it on a weekday. That's another way to protect your sponsors. Also, the Nightly News story included a strong statement of dissent from the weasels at the American Beverage Association.]
Tues. March 13--Someone needs to have a serious talk with Kelly O'Donnell. In her live shots from Lafayette, Louisiana which began and ended a story about Romney and Santorum, she was standing in an empty indoor rally site without a U.S. flag visible. This is heresy at Nightly News. Every NBC News reporter covering politics is required by network rules to have a flag visible over his or her shoulder at all times. No exceptions. What was O'Donnell thinking? Does she know she could get fired for failing to have a flag in the shot? Hopefully she was able to keep her job and got off with only a warning. Although come to think of it, I didn't see her again this week, so I can't say for sure what happened to her.
***Pete Williams did another story about voter ID laws, but it didn't include any live commentary. Brian probably insisted that Pete not appear live in the story because that would solve the prickly problem of Pete dissing him by not saying. "Good evening, Brian".
***Once again, Brian took some time to tell us about the "Spring Fever" temperatures across the country. My favorite part of the story was when Brian said, "Tomorrow might be a good day to skip work or school." That's right--you heard correctly. Big shot anchor Brian Williams just encouraged kids to skip school. Maybe the producers should let Brian do an entire "Education Nation" story on the fine art of playing hooky. How on earth does he get away with saying these stupid things? Isn't there anyone at NBC News who can just tell him to keep his big mouth shut? I wonder how many kids actually skipped school because "Uncle Brian said it was okay."
***Brian then spent 25 seconds showing us a clip from a Univision story filmed at the White House because Bo (the Obamas' dog) ran across the grass behind the reporter. What a great use of news time. I wonder if Brian's producers were having a laugh at his expense, since Univision shows regularly beat "Rock Center" in the ratings.
***The final story was a "Making A Difference" piece about a 100-year-old woman who still teaches kindergarten and reading in Chicago. Less than a month ago (Feb. 18), Nightly News did a story about a 105-year-old woman who works in a hospital mail room. I guess Brian is channeling Willard Scott. If you're 100, he'll put you on the air. Can someone please explain how either of these stories qualifies as news? Meanwhile, on this night, Nightly News did not even bother reporting on Syria. But we know all about the 100-year-old teacher and Bo's on-camera romp at the White House. Great job, Nightly News producers. Keep up the good work.
Wed. March 14--Two stories (totalling four minutes) about the meeting between president Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron were just excuses to show more clips from Brian's interview with Cameron, which in turn led to Brian's 20-second promo begging viewers to watch the full interview on that night's "Rock Center". But the most hilarious thing about Brian's shameless "Rock Center" plug was that there was a waving flag animation behind him as he read it! We all know that Brian insists on having a waving flag behind him when he introduces stories about politics, war, NASA or any other pseudo-patriotic subject matter. It's a cheap way to pander to the viewers and boost his ratings. But now it seems that he's also insisting on having the waving flag behind him when he reads "Rock Center" promos. How are we supposed to interpret this? Is "Rock Center" the most patriotic show on television? Is Brian the most patriotic news anchor? Is it somehow patriotic of him to plug an NBC prime time show (and their lowest-rated show, at that)? Does Brian understand that all his waving flags make him something of a laughing stock in the news biz? He probably doesn't care, since ratings are the only thing he really cares about.
***Brian then showed us thirty seconds of video of the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. I thought I was watching one of those new-age meditation videos that help you relax by showing flowers, trees, grass and other pleasing flora. I expected Brian to say, "Close your eyes and breathe. Breathe in, breathe out. Again. Good."
***Time for another story on climate change. Nightly News shows the same basic story (with the same lame video accompaniment) every couple of weeks. As usual, it was reported by the idiotic Anne Thompson who repeated the same things she always says in these stories. One of the ways the Nightly News producers maintain their audience is by scaring viewers into thinking something catastrophic will happen (see all the stories about falling space junk). In this story, about the possibility of coastal flooding due to global warming, the producers once again dragged out their old animation of what it would look like if the New York City subway system flooded. Horrors! I got news for the producers--the NYC subway system is already flooded. Between the urine puddles and spilled beverages, it's impossible to find a dry patch in any of the subway stations. But maybe there's an upside to the possibility of New York being underwater--I certainly wouldn't be upset if Anne Thompson was swept out to sea. And in case anyone is worried about Brian Williams being carried away by coastal flooding, put your mind at ease. He commutes from his Park Avenue penthouse apartment to NBC News's 30 Rock studios by private helicopter, so he's in no danger.
***Brian then had to take 30 seconds to report the results of this year's Iditarod race, because there were probably a lot of viewers who were wondering about that. Obviously, it was just an excuse for Brian to say, "And let's not forget to give credit to those very good indefatigable dogs." Funny how every dog on the planet is a "good dog" to Brian. I guess he's pandering to the canine viewing demographic.
***The broadcast ended with another one of those fawning, obsequious, rah-rah, gung-ho, God-bless-America patriotic stories about Americans welcoming home their brave hero soldiers. This particular story was about people who welcome soldiers home from Iraq and Afghanistan at the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport. It was filled with non-stop images of waving flags and red-white-and-blue festooned people (I counted at least a dozen flag shots). Nightly News does these stories over and over again. The last one, on Jan. 28, was titled "Heroes' Welcome", and was about a couple of guys from St. Louis who decided to throw a ticker tape parade for soldiers returning from Iraq. These are the most sickening and most base type of pandering stories in the Nightly News arsenal. Like most Nightly News stories, they are designed to appeal to the viewers' eagle-soaring, flag-waving, I-love-the-USA sense of patriotism. They aren't news stories--they're just excuses for the producers to show waving flags and people talking about how much they love the good old U.S of A. American Flags appear in almost every shot during these stories, and of course the obligatory waving animated flag appears behind Brian as he introduces the story (in the 1/28 story, it was Kate Snow with the waving flag behind her). The producers should be ashamed of themselves for showing this garbage. But, of course, they're not. Why would they be? Brian and his producers have appointed themselves as the propaganda arm of the U.S. military. Their job is to glorify the U.S. Armed Forces, not to report on them. And they get great ratings by desperately trying to show that Nightly News loves this country more than any other network news broadcast. It is truly nauseating (but hardly surprising) that the producers stoop to this level of pandering.
Thurs. March 15--After Jim Miklaszewski reported from U.S. Armed Forces Central Command Headquarters about Sgt. Robert Bales' massacre of Afghan civilians, Brian said, "Jim Miklaszewski at CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa tonight." It's hilarious and pathetic that Brian is so desperate to impress viewers by using what he thinks is cool military jargon. He just loves playing soldier, like we all did when we were kids.
***Brian continued to milk his nearly-week-old interview with British PM David Cameron by showing us yet more of their "conversation". The story included a ridiculous fifteen-second shot (with no audio) of Brian and Cameron walking up a staircase at 10 Downing Street while engaging in some supposedly intense discussion. Apparently, this was meant to convince us that they are pals. Someone should have informed the Prime Minister that Brian Williams is considered a lightweight in American journalism circles. The story again carried the "Rock Center" logo in the lower right corner because that anemic show needs all the promotional help it can get. Note to Brian: Interviews, like fish, spoil after a few days.
***Brian then took 30 seconds to tell us about the White House state dinner in Cameron's honor. So who do you suppose Brian chose to show arriving at the dinner? Heads of state? Philanthropists? Religious leaders? No. He showed George Clooney and Elizabeth McGovern. Clooney was an obvious choice--Brian makes it a point of showing Clooney on Nightly News several times a week because it helps the ratings. And as for McGovern--well, she's on a popular PBS series ("Downton Abbey"), so Brian is trying to pander to the upscale PBS audience. Oh, and by the way, "Downton Abbey" is produced by a company that's owned by NBC Universal, so Brian was also plugging an NBC property. Well done.
***Later, Brian took 30 seconds to show Kate Middleton playing field hockey to promote this summer's London Olympics. Kate promoting the Olympics? OMG! Brian must have surely had a sexual experience in his pants.
***It had been 24 hours since the last story about warm temperatures, so Brian took a minute to tell us about them. It included more footage of the Washington, D.C. cherry blossoms, which we had just seen on the previous day's broadcast. I guess cherry blossoms are the new Northern Lights.
***The final story was about a man who paints ski trail maps for ski resorts. Yes, I can certainly understand why Brian chose to devote two-and-a-half minutes of his newscast to this important story.
Fri. March 16--Stop the presses! George Clooney was arrested. So Brian spent 2:40 reporting it. Over at CBS, Scott Pelley gave this story 22 seconds near end of the broadcast, because he understood that that's all it really deserved. What is wrong with Scott Pelley? He didn't even show us any footage of the cherry blossoms. Naturally, the Nightly News report included old footage of an interview Brian did with Clooney, as well as old footage of Ann Curry tagging along with Clooney as she exploited one of his visits to Darfur. Because at Nightly News, the producers' favorite subject to report on is Nightly News.
***Brian took 25 seconds to tell us the important story that one in three adult children have moved back home with their parents.
***Speaking of important stories, he also told us about an Austrian sky diver preparing for a jump from 120,000 feet.
***Did you know that Peyton Manning may get a $90 million deal from the Denver Broncos? You do now. Brian always reports football stories as a way to promote Sunday Night Football on NBC.
***The final story was a two-minute piece about the new movie "Hunger Games". Why bother with news when you can attract lots more viewers by showing entertainment stories? I wonder how much Lionsgate Films paid NBC to run this two-minute movie trailer. Oh, and by the way--the "Hunger Games" soundtrack is being released on Universal Republic Music (owned by Universal), a sister company of NBC. So doing a story on "Hunger Games" is also a great way to promote the soundtrack for Universal. So let's recap: Nightly News hasn't done a story on Syria in six days, but at least we know all about George Clooney's arrest, the Austrian sky diver, Peyton Manning and "Hunger Games". Great job, Brian.