Heeeere’s Barack!

June 30, 2009


26 June 09

Media Bias: ABC’s prime-time special starring President Obama was shameless journalistic favoritism. But as a promotional event, it backfired; the broadcast revealed no public demand for his vision of health reform.

After announcing that it would carve out a valuable evening slot for what might best be called “The Health Care Show Starring Barack Obama,” ABC assured the public it would be no glorified White House infomercial. But an analysis of the broadcast’s content indicates otherwise.

The program’s real name was “Questions for the President: Prescription for America.” But it was more like “Long Answers from the President.” Obama had plenty of time for monologues. An analysis by the Business and Media Institute found that some 60% of the 75 minutes of airtime was eaten up by the president talking.

Questions and comments from the pre-picked audience were a total of just 12% of the programming, well under 10 minutes — this on a show advertised as dialogue about the future of U.S. health care.

There were no real health care experts present to ask the president any tough, informed questions from a divergent viewpoint, no John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis or Dr. David Gratzer of the Manhattan Institute. Unless, of course, you count ABC’s latest incarnation of Marcus Welby, M.D., the network’s “medical editor,” Dr. Tim Johnson.

John Sheils of the Lewin Group, which did a devastating analysis on the effects of establishing a government health care option, was nearly apologetic in his one brief chance to ask a question. He had no opportunity for a follow-up.

As for Republican members of Congress, who could have presented the TV-watching public with alternative reform plans, or made the case for keeping the status quo rather than embracing the path to socialized medicine, there were none to be seen.

With no chance to rebut, the Republican National Committee was justified in demanding through a letter to ABC that “the Republican Party should be included in this primetime event, or the DNC should pay for your airtime.”

ABC’s response to the RNC was: Don’t worry, “ABC News will have complete editorial control. To suggest otherwise is quite unfair to both our journalists and our audience.”

But America, after all, is a republic. We elect representatives who analyze policies and decide on our behalf. How can we have a televised “conversation” about a major issue featuring the president, but not elected officials from the opposing party who fundamentally disagree with his position? That’s just the president having a conversation with himself in the presence of a TV audience.

And speaking of those watching at home, if Americans are so anxious to change our health system, why is it that the Obama Show came in third among the top three networks in the ratings? How is it that even a rerun of CBS’ “CSI:NY” beat out this oh-so-important debate on the future of medicine?

The meager ratings should be particularly satisfying for those who wanted to buy ad time during the show to make the case against ObamaCare but were not allowed to by ABC. With so few watching, they wouldn’t have gotten their money’s worth anyway.

In the context of moderate congressional Democrats refusing to support the establishment of a government-run alternative health care plan, and the airwaves already filled with warnings of the consequences of ObamaCare, the president’s ABC infomercial can only be viewed as having backfired.

Viewer interest was poor as Obama tried to rally the public behind a program designed to make him the 21st-century FDR, and no one should wonder why. After spending hundreds of billions already — purportedly to “save” the world economy — the president’s insistence that we also have to transform a health care system, that though flawed remains the envy of the world, simply rings false.

We continue, however, to be in great danger of being subjected to “reform” that will yield socialized medicine. The only prescription that will protect the public from it: a large dose of information.

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