...don't even ignore 'em.
-- Samuel Goldwyn

Friday, April 14, 2006

Anything Goes, If You Disclose. NBC Division.

ON the NBC Nightly News last night, fifteen minutes in, Brian Williams introduced this story, kind of like this, from the Nightly News site:

"AMHERST, N.H. - A new movie set to open in late April is already getting lots of attention just from its promotional trailer. It’s being released by NBC Universal, the parent company of NBC, which is a partner with Microsoft in MSNBC.com. The movie is about United Flight 93 — the hijacked plane from September 11th that crashed in Pennsylvania."
How can I object to this? They said they were gonna flog the company movie, right there in the lead. I object anyway. This is news? Because a sensitive theatre manager in New York City encountered patrons in tears after seeing the movie's trailer and pulled it, it rates a spot high up in the network's flagship newscast? Well, sure, the New York Times covered it, so it must be news. And, I guess I can understand the theatre manager's action, even in hard-boiled mid-town Manhattan.

Nevertheless, I choose to rant when I see entertainment giants who own news organizations devoting two or three of their evening network news show's 22 minutes to a slightly newsworthy promotion of one of their movies. That would be about 10 percent of the program's news content. Of course I didn't analyze the rest of the 'cast's content for plugs-as-news. Which story of national importance didn't make it into NBC Nightly's stack last night?

9/11 will always be news, of course, and news is a business, with sister companies. And, after all, they're not keeping their conflict of interests secret. So, add this to the Dehype list of disclosures, which includes annuity-industry-paid Ben Stein's two-birds-one-stone commentary on CBS Sunday Morning, conflict of interests disclosed, of course, therefore just fine with the network news division.

Broadcasting and journalism are under attack from an angry, defensive government. News people have also been tripping themselves up. They don't need their own companies insisting they turn company flack. And we deserve better. Time the networks got serious about news, or maybe stop being so commercially serious about it. I bet news divisions could still make money with the promotion-entertainment pressure off.

No comments: