Obama/ABC pact draws fire


The all-day collaboration between President Barack Obama and ABC News, which will focus on health care and involve a full slate of ABC News programs, is being criticized by both sides. On the one hand, there is fear that the series of events will translate into nothing more than a prolonged infomercial. On the other, there is the fear that such an important matter, worthy of serious debate, should not be the exclusive property of one media outlet.

In all, four ABC News offerings figure in the project – “Good Morning America,” “World News,” the main town hall-style event on “Primetime” and finally, further discussion on “Nightline.”

The Republican National Committee believes the series could easily devolve into a “glorified informercial.” And aggregator Matt Drudge’s website charged that ABC had essentially turned over its broadcast machinery to the Obama administration.

The network flatly denies the charges, saying there will be a full debate on the issue and that all sides will be heard from.

Blogger Eric Deggans brought up the other side at the Huffington Post. He suggested that perhaps ABC was doing this since NBC did so well with its own two-part backstage look at the White House. He is afraid taking the one-network approach would trivialize the importance of the health care issue. He further worried that other networks would ignore the issue, since they were cut out at the source. He believes this should be news, accessible to all media outlets.

RBR/TVBR observation: We’ll have to see what ABC actually puts on the air before we can accurately judge if there is any bias involved in this arrangement. But it does point out the high wire act involved. News departments want good stories, and exclusives are treasured. Politicians want to reach mass audiences. The corporate balance sheet is a secondary concern for the newsers, and isn’t really a concern at all for the politician.

Network executives have to keep the corporate balance sheet in mind. They have always been willing to preempt programming to carry events of major national significance, but at the same time they cannot remain in business if they are constantly cancelling ads to do so. Is the ABC arrangement a viable compromise or a bad idea? Your thoughts? Our Bounceback section and our public forums are ready and waiting for your opinion.