Anti-War Messaging = Bad Ratings


Here’s something few people probably remember. In 2003, Phil Donahue had the most popular show on MSNBC. And he was fired. And a leaked memo from network executives said that he was fired because his strong stand against the impending invasion of Iraq made him a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war.” Donahue was on Democracy Now on the 10th anniversary of that invasion to discuss it:

PHIL DONAHUE: Well, I think what happened to me, the biggest lesson, I think, is the—how corporate media shapes our opinions and our coverage. This was a decision—my decision—the decision to release me came from far above. This was not an assistant program director who decided to separate me from MSNBC. They were terrified of the antiwar voice. And that is not an overstatement. Antiwar voices were not popular. And if you’re General Electric, you certainly don’t want an antiwar voice on a cable channel that you own; Donald Rumsfeld is your biggest customer. So, by the way, I had to have two conservatives on for every liberal. I could have Richard Perle on alone, but I couldn’t have Dennis Kucinich on alone. I was considered two liberals. It really is funny almost, when you look back on how—how the management was just frozen by the antiwar voice. We were scolds. We weren’t patriotic. American people disagreed with us. And we weren’t good for business…

Well, you know, the coin of the realm is the size of the audience. It’s important to see this. When a broadcasting executive gets out of bed in the morning, before his foot hits the floor, his thoughts are ratings. “What are my ratings?” Not unlike Wall Street people, who get their—and CEOs, their first thought is the price of their stock.

A quote long attributed to Voltaire says, “It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.” But it’s also dangerous to be right on matters where the public is wrong — especially if your first concern is TV show ratings.

Comments

  1. says

    A quote long attributed to Voltaire says, “It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.” But it’s also dangerous to be right on matters where the public is wrong — especially if your first concern is TV show ratings.

    In the world of TV show ratings, is there any more established authority than the public?

  2. Synfandel says

    When the public thinks of the situation in Iraq, they think Jersey Shore did an on-location shoot.

  3. Akira MacKenzie says

    Just remember, the lame-stream media is irredeemably leftist and capitalism and America…the lame-stream media is irredeemably leftist and capitalism and America…the lame-stream media is irredeemably leftist and capitalism and America…the lame-stream media is irredeemably leftist…

  4. says

    In the world of TV show ratings, is there any more established authority than the public?

    Gretchen, in this case, the “higher authority” was Dick Cheney, who demonstrated how easily the public can be led around by the nose when you have a compliant media.

  5. robertharvey says

    Or as one of my friends puts it: “Being prematurely right is the same as being wrong.”

  6. raven says

    Appalling.

    We saw this with the Vietnam war too.

    The anti-war activists received a lot of harassment and hate as well as a lot of government sponsored police action.

    In the end, they were right. But not until 58,000 Americans and maybe a million Vietnamese were dead. The cost of the Vietnam war is considered one of the main factors in the inflation of the 70’s.

  7. Pierce R. Butler says

    … if your first concern is TV show ratings.

    Except, obviously, in this case the network brass chose Bushevik-correctness above ratings – which, I gather, did not drop for Donahue just because he allowed anti-war guests to appear on his show.

    MSNBC obviously had “other priorities” than ratings when they chopped their highest-rated show in ’03. Somebody more familiar with ad rates than I am could probably calculate, to the nearest million, just how much the network sacrificed to protect their viewers from the terrifying twin scourges of pacifism and common sense.

  8. magistramarla says

    I just ran into a good example of this.
    We’ve been living in liberal California, and we discovered that a cable channel called CLOO shows a marathon of MacGyver every Monday. We’ve been recording them and catching one or two episodes before bed each evening.
    We’re getting ready to move back to Texas soon – military move, not our choice.
    I checked the listings for both the cable company and Direct TV in our Texas city and found CLOO listed.
    However, they are both showing a marathon of Charlie’s Angels instead of MacGyver.
    I guess Mac is just too liberal for Texas, especially since he was an action hero who despised guns.
    I’ve bought the box set of all of the MacGyver episodes and I intend to get my grandsons hooked on watching them. Hopefully, it will be a great influence on them.

Leave a Reply