December 21, 2015
Word: Television has gone off its rocker
Bill Moyers & Michael Winship - Television news has gone off its rocker and turned our politics into the equivalent of a freak show’s hall of mirrors. The networks have grasped Donald Trump to their collective bosom like the winner of one of those misogynistic, televised beauty pageants he owns. Each pronouncement from the Sultan of Slur is treated as epic, no matter how deeply insulting, bigoted or just plain ridiculous.
You may have seen by now that recent Tyndall Report analysis of the nightly news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC. It found that from January 1 through November, the big three had devoted 234 minutes of reporting to Donald Trump but only ten to Bernie Sanders. At ABC, World News Tonight had given the Trump campaign 81 minutes of coverage while Bernie Sanders has received less than a minute....
Our friend and colleague John Nichols at The Nation magazine says that it’s useless to try to get the networks to dial it back; every Trump bellow leaves them begging for more. Rather, he writes, “When a candidate is playing to the worst fears of Americans, what’s needed is more serious and intensive coverage that puts things in perspective… The point is to recognize that there are other candidates who are getting as much support as Trump, that are exciting crowds and gaining significant support, and that are advancing dramatically different responses to the challenges facing America. That’s not happening now.”
Big surprise, the problem is money. Tons of it. Trump brings ratings and ratings raise advertising revenue. What’s more, in an insane election cycle like this one, cash already is pouring in from the production, sale and placement of political TV advertising, cash that also makes television executives and political strategists wealthy. Here’s CBS chief executive Les Moonves at an investor presentation last week, cheering on Trump and the other Republican candidates: “The more they spend, the better it is for us… Go Donald! Keep getting out there. And you know, this is fun, watching this, let them spend money on us… We’re looking forward to a very exciting political year in ’16.”