But there’s a firewall!
This week, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus declared that the Republican primary candidates would not be debating on CNN or NBC so long as those networks insisted on running hagiographies of potential 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. CNN is creating a documentary; NBC is creating a miniseries with the drop-dead beautiful Diane Lane playing the not-so-much Hillary.
Priebus stated to CNN, “I find CNN’s actions disturbing and disappointing. Your credibility as a supposedly unbiased news network will most certainly be jeopardized by the decision to show political favoritism and produce an extended commercial for Secretary Clinton’s nascent campaign.” He wrote to NBC, “NBC cannot purport to be a neutral party in American politics, and the credibility of NBC News, already damaged by the partisanship of MSNBC, will be further undermined by the actions of NBC Universal executives who have taken it upon themselves to produce an extended commercial for Secretary Clinton’s nascent campaign.”
NBC immediately fired back by stating that NBC News was different than NBC Entertainment, and never the twain shall meet. NBC News immediately responded to Priebus, writing that it is “completely independent of NBC Entertainment and has no involvement in this project.”
Mika Brzezinski of the unwatchable Morning Joe on MSNBC asked Priebus if he understood the distinction. “I have to set a debate calendar that has the best interests of our party and our nominees in mind. And if I’ve got NBC doing a miniseries with Diane Lane…it makes my choice of moderators much easier,” Priebus answered. “People see NBC and … NBC is in the business of news. They’re in the business of entertainment. There are times when decisions that are made by NBC, whether it’s entertainment or whether it’s the news, that are going to have an effect over the entire brand.”
So, is there a firewall between NBC News and NBC Entertainment?
The answer didn’t take long in coming. On Thursday, sources told Mediaite that actor Alec Baldwin – yes, the star of NBC’s 30 Rock, famed voicemailer (“rude, thoughtless little pig”), and “Words With Friends” aficionado – will be joining MSNBC on Friday evenings to talk politics. His new show, which has yet to be named, will air at 10 pm ET. Baldwin’s politics are famously leftist and virulently violent; in 1998, he suggested that he would like to “stone Henry Hyde to death,” and said that if Americans didn’t live in America, “we would go to [Republicans’] homes and kill their wives and their children. We would kill their families, for what they’re doing to this country.”
As John Nolte of Breitbart News rightly pointed out, “There has never been a firewall between the news and entertainment divisions at any news network, much less NBC. Look at how frequently NBC's various news outlets (broadcast, online, cable) aired Tina Fey's ‘Saturday Night Live’ appearances as Sarah Palin during the 2008 presidential election. The news division's motive was glaringly obvious - they loved being able to endlessly broadcast those clips to in an effort destroy this woman as a viable candidate.” There’s a reason that Brian Williams appeared on 30 Rock almost as often as Fey herself.
The truth is that there is no real gap between the entertainment and news divisions of television networks. That’s been true for decades. Paddy Chayefsky pointed it out as early as Network, when network executive Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) takes over the newsroom: “when I took over this department, it had the worst programming record in television history. This network hasn't one show in the top twenty. This network is an industry joke. We better start putting together one winner for next September. I want a show developed, based on the activities of a terrorist group. Joseph Stalin and his merry band of Bolsheviks. I want ideas from you people. And, by the way, the next time I send an audience research report around, you all better read it, or I'll sack the f---ing lot of you, is that clear?”
Ratings and liberalism rule the roost. That’s why the RNC is right. That’s why Alec Baldwin will soon be a news host. And that’s why the Republican Party had better pull its collective head out of its posterior about the value of entertainment in shaping Americans’ views.
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