T Dog’s Think Tank: Voters lose as networks schedule dueling town halls

 

ABC and NBC schedule Presidential town halls opposite each other as ratings dictate decisions instead of common sense  

NBC’s decision to schedule a President Trump town hall opposite Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is so ridiculous, it’s hard to explain.

A second Presidential debate was supposed to take place tonight between Trump and Biden. But Trump tested positive for the coronavirus so having them appear in person together was a no-go. After Trump rejected the idea for a virtual debate (with Biden in one location and Trump in another), Biden then decided to do a town hall forum for ABC, as they did one with Trump earlier in its place.

But in a last-minute move – given Trump recently proclaimed himself “free from the coronavirus”, NBC decided to schedule a town hall forum featuring Trump on the same evening – opposite the Biden one on ABC. So instead of a second debate in which Trump turned down, we get two candidates on two networks opposite one another where Biden will be in Philadelphia and Trump will be in Miami and both are taking place at 7 p.m. Chicago time, airing live in all time zones for an hour. The Trump town hall is airing not only on NBC but co-owned MSNBC and CNBC as well.

George Stephanopoulos of Good Morning America is moderator for Biden’s town hall while Today’s Savannah Guthrie does the same for Trump’s as the scheduling highlights the rivalry between the news divisions of ABC and NBC.

So instead of the focus on the issues – notably Covid, the recession, and racial injustice, we will get endless pieces on the ratings generated by whom watched whom as this is what President Trump wants because Lord knows, he’s practically failed at everything else while in office.

What a joke.

This entire debacle tells you one thing – the broadcast networks have abandoned serving the public interest in order to chase ratings and revenue at a time democracy is falling apart – they might as well be cable channels at this point. All the BS the National Association of Broadcasters tell you – “we’re here to serve our communities” – is just that – BS.

You wonder if anything like this would’ve taken place in another era. The broadcast networks and local stations in general have been taken over by huge media conglomerates – in this case, Disney with ABC and Comcast with NBCUniversal. Republicans are certainly more friendly to media deregulation than Democrats are, as a case regarding the FCC’s media ownership rules are now before the Supreme Court.

My guess about this deal NBC made with the Trump administration is even though he calls the network (and the rest of the news media) “fake news” and co-owned MSNBC as “MSDNC” (as in Democratic National Convention), it’s about parent Comcast’s and other media corporations’ deregulatory agenda, something I pointed out a few years ago when the major networks decided to carry a Trump speech. You know the orders to give him an hour came from the top of the Comcast chain.

There’s also the matter of NBC’s ties with Trump, dating back to the his days with The Apprentice, which brought huge ratings to the network for his dog-and-pony show. The program converted to Celebrity Apprentice a few years later, and still drew solid ratings.

The media’s questionable way of handling political forums are disturbingly becoming more common as the snippiness between competitors are now more heated, like politics itself and as a result, voters and the public lose out.

For example, local TV and radio stations in Chicago last year each held separate “forums” involving mayoral candidates Toni Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot. The problem was, there were many as ten of them, as both candidates became repetitive and failed to inform the voters on any issues.

And regarding politicians whoring out to media companies, there was the “town hall” from 2016 involving then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel where thanks to his buddies at the Illinois Broadcasters Association and Radio Broadcasters of Chicagoland, spoke simultaneously on 47 radio stations in a very rushed and uninformative half-hour presentation on Chicago’s problems. Listeners for the most part hated it, but enough of them tuned in to make it a “success”.

So now we are forced to watch one or DVR/stream the other when American viewers are crunched for time and have other things to do and now you have to commit two to three hours of your life to watch two town halls.

But Big Media couldn’t care less about you and your busy lifestyle. It cares about ranking in ratings and revenue and you slaving to them at a time with “appointment TV” is going away in a on-demand universe. I understand it’s a “business”, but as the nation is struggling from the pandemic, maybe focus on educating voters on what they need to know and put aside your stupid Today/GMA grudge match as most viewers – especially in Chicago where both lose to WGN’s morning news – don’t give a damn about it.

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