Brian Williams likes to pretend that he's interested in reporting stories about nutrition. Here are some recent nutrition stories he has personally told us about on NBC Nightly News:
3/17/10--Brian eagerly reported that Kraft will be reducing the sodium in their products by 10%. The Kraft logo appeared on-screen for the entirety of this 30-second story.
12/28/10--Brian could barely restrain his enthusiasm as he told us that Frito-Lay would be going "all natural". Here are Brian's exact words: "Coming soon to grocery store shelves near you, snacks we've always considered junk food with a new label saying 'All Natural'. It's the work of Frito-Lay--they're removing chemical additives from some Tostitos, Sun Chips, Lays, Rold Gold pretzels." (Brian gets extra credit for mentioning four specific Frito-Lay brands.) As Brian narrated this 30-second story, the Frito-Lay logo was prominently displayed over his left shoulder. And just to make sure we got the point, below the logo were the phrases "Good Fun!" and "ALL NATURAL".
1/20/11--Brian excitedly announced that Walmart, "...promised today to cut prices on fresh fruits and vegetables and to reduce fats, sugar, salt (and) eliminate trans-fats in some of its own store brands by the year 2015." Praising Walmart for ending the practice of selling unhealthy food is like praising someone because he's stopped beating his dog. It's great that the bad activity has stopped, but where was the media coverage while the bad activity was still going on? I have never seen Nightly News do a single story about the high prices, lack of fresh food choices or the elevated fat, sugar and sodium content in foods sold at Walmart. But Brian is thrilled to tell us all about their great new healthy food policy.
7/26/11--Brian took thirty seconds to bring us this piece of breaking news: "McDonald's said today that it's taking steps to make Happy Meals healthier. The company is cutting the size of the french fry portion in half for starters and adding apple slices to every meal. The new meals will have about 20% fewer calories--coming in at under 600 calories total. First Lady Michelle Obama, who campaigns, of course, for better nutrition, put out a statement today calling this a good step." As Brian read this, the McDonald's logo was onscreen for the entire thirty seconds, along with the phrase "Healthy Choices" and a picture of a Happy Meal. I especially love how Brian said that Happy Meals will become "healthier" instead of less unhealthy. And I also love how he implied that Mrs. Obama was endorsing McDonald's.
So it seems that Brian really likes to report stories about nutrition, right? Wrong. These aren't stories about nutrition. These are stories whose sole purpose is to promote regular NBC sponsors--Kraft, Frito-Lay (owned by PepsiCo), Walmart and McDonald's. And these aren't just food companies, they are among the largest food behemoths on the planet. So how much money do you suppose these four companies pay NBC each year in advertising and promotion fees? Keep in mind that NBC isn't just a TV channel that shows "The Office" and "Community". Comcast NBC Universal is a behemoth in its own right. In addition to NBC, it also owns MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo, Chiller, Oxygen, Cloo (formerly Sleuth), SyFy, Telemundo, MUN2, The Weather Channel, USA, E!, The Golf Channel, The Style Network and NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus). Comcast NBC Universal also has a 15% ownership stake in A&E Networks, which includes The History Channel, The Biography Channel and Lifetime. So I couldn't even begin to guess how much money Comcast NBC Universal accepts in ad fees from Kraft, PepsiCo, Walmart and McDonald's. Is it $50 million a year? $75 million? $100 million? More? Your guess is as good as mine. Let's just say it's a lot. An awful lot. So it's hardly surprising that super-sleaze Brian Williams likes to take time on Nightly News to thank his sponsors by reading 30-second press releases praising their products. Of course, there could be another explanation. It's entirely possible that these companies are paying the NBC sales & marketing department to concoct sham "news stories" about their products, which Brian then eagerly reads on the air. In other words, these Nightly News reports about Kraft, McDonald's and others may actually be paid commercials. Considering that the weaselly executives (and anchors) at NBC have no morals or ethics, this wouldn't surprise me one bit.
Meanwhile, here's a nutrition story that you won't hear Brian Williams report: On Tuesday (6/5/12), The New York Times ran a story on the front page of their business section explaining that The Walt Disney Company will soon be implementing strict nutritional guidelines for food companies who want to advertise their products on Disney television networks, radio stations and websites that are watched or listened to by kids (for Disney's ABC stations, the guidelines will apply to times when kids are likely to be watching, such as weekend mornings). That's a pretty radical step and Disney should be applauded for their forward-thinking efforts. The Times article said that certain foods like Kraft Lunchables "will no longer be acceptable advertising material". Also, Disney characters like Buzz Lightyear are no longer being used to promote unhealthy foods like McDonald's Happy meals. Furthermore, Disney will also be reducing sodium in food served at its theme parks. (Read the entire Times article by Brooks Barnes at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/05/business/media/in-nutrition-initiative-disney-to-restrict-advertising.html.)
So why won't Brian Williams report this story? The obvious reason is that there's no upside for Brian and his producers. Most stories on Nightly News have an ulterior motive. They are specifically meant to promote NBC sponsors, promote NBC television shows, or simply to boost Nightly News's ratings by pandering to lowest-common-denominator mass-appeal themes. So reporting this story would actually bring negative publicity to NBC sponsors such as McDonald's and Kraft (and many others), and Brian could never allow that. Brian's primary goal is to promote his sponsors whenever possible. But when that's not possible, his policy is to protect the sponsors by refusing to run negative stories about their products. Another reason he won't report this story is that Disney/ABC is a direct competitor of Comcast NBC Universal and Brian is loath to report positive news about NBC's rivals. It would make NBC look bad by comparison. In fact, Brian rarely mentions ABC or CBS by name. He's too scared that hearing these networks' names on Nightly News would cause his viewers to immediately change the channel, as if they had no idea that these other networks existed.
Of course, there may come a time when the weasels at Comcast NBC Universal have to cave in to public pressure and implement an advertising policy similar to the one put in place by Disney. If that day ever comes, you can bet that Brian will announce it on Nightly News as if he was reporting the second coming of Jesus Christ. It would probably sound something like this: "NBC Universal announced today that their networks will no longer accept advertising for unhealthy foods during programs that are watched primarily by children. Furthermore, all of the Universal theme parks will implement strict new nutritional guidelines to make their food healthier. This bold new step is part of NBC Universal's global initiative to eradicate childhood obesity. We really care. Really. Michelle Obama loves that NBC is doing this and she told me so personally. NBC will officially introduce this policy on a new prime time reality show in which children of veterans will compete to lose weight by exercising and eating right. The show will be called 'The Littlest Loser' and it premieres next Tuesday at 9 PM, 8 central. Brought to you by McDonald's."