04.14.2014 0

CBS sticks thumb in America’s eye

CBS eyeBy Rick Manning

History is replete with organizations making seemingly innocuous decisions only to feel the fall out years later.

General Motors decided to save money in its various car divisions by making the Cadillac version of a vehicle only distinguishable from its Chevy brother by leather versus plastic interiors. This decision saved money in the short term, but eventually resulted in the demise of the Oldsmobile brand and the likely end of Buick in the near future.

Coca Cola attempted corporate suicide in their New Coke scheme that executives pulled back from rapidly enough to avoid lasting damage that not even a CGI’d polar bear could repair.

This past few weeks, CBS has made two decisions that have the potential to send the network into an unrecoverable tailspin.

Sharyll Atkisson, a seasoned and accomplished investigative reporter for CBS News, is now a free agent as the network decided to move on without her hard hitting, apolitical reporting.

Atkisson is the journalist who pushed the Fast and Furious and Benghazi stories forward with unflinching honesty providing CBS News with rare credibility in mainstream America.  Now, she is free to unleash that same quality of clear eyed observation on her former employers.

Tearing away the curtain on news decision making at CBS, Atkisson told Bill O’Reilly on FoxNews, “There is unprecedented, I believe, influence on the media, not just the news, but the images you see everywhere. By well-orchestrated and financed campaign of special interests, political interests and corporations. I think all of that comes into play.”

Her statement about the influence on the media as a whole is an eerie reminder of the $500,000 contract that California supporters of Obamacare gave to the University of Southern California to promote positive messages about the failed health care law through television programs, like the ones that run on CBS.

This recognition that the entertainment division is rife with political messaging inserted like a Fiat product placement explains why a show like NCIS, can have a Christmas show where a Christian chaplain’s son is murdered after converting to Islam, and the bad guy is the other son who was protecting the family.  Message delivered that Christianity is intolerant of Islam, all in the context of a trite cop drama.

Now at CBS News, there isn’t even any room for the pesky Atkisson’s questions about the security of the Obamacare online sign up system, particularly if the entertainment side of the shop is being urged to insert story lines that encourage people to sign up.

While jettisoning an honest, top notch journalist, the network, that has lagged NBC in late night since Johnny Carson regularly outperformed rat packer Joey Bishop back in the 60s, had a fateful choice with David Letterman’s announcement that he was ending his run in 2015.

Faced with NBC’s fresh-faced Jimmy Fallon, of Saturday Night Live fame, CBS had its choice of potential late night hosts, and they rapidly settled upon Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert.

For those not familiar with Colbert’s act, he makes a living by playing a dimwitted conservative who is the butt of his own jokes.  While CBS officials have been quick to point out that Colbert will not be bringing that persona to the network, it is hardly believable.

The viewers that CBS hopes to attract and capture expect Colbert to play the only role they have ever seen him in, and once they find out he is not doing that schtick, they will turn the dial.

Apparently, CBS did not realize they were competing with NBC, and instead thought they needed to get to the left of ratings impaired MSNBC.

Ultimately being funny and having guests who viewers want to see trumps everything else in late night talk.  But when CBS had a chance to broaden their appeal by making a bold choice of a conservative or even a middle of the road host who would have brought different eyeballs to the game, they flinched.  Or worse, it probably never occurred to them to reach for Jay Leno’s audience by appealing across political boundaries.

In a period of just a few weeks, CBS has sent a clear message to those who just want honest news and across the political spectrum skewering of the political elites, that they are not the network for you.  Instead if you want agenda filled coverage where the left is allowed to wear their hate for traditional American values and culture on their sleeves, it will likely be must see tv.

Time will tell if the network that thought Katie Couric delivering the news was a good idea will prosper from this latest leftward lurch.  Ultimately, the decision lies with people who lay awake at night watching television, and that is exactly how it should be.

The author is vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government

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