Couric: 'Corporate America Is Out to Get' Your Kids
It was almost like CBSâ€™s version of â€śTo Catch A Predator.â€ť â€śEvening Newsâ€ť anchor Katie Couric warned: â€śTheyâ€™re after your children and your grandchildren.â€ť
By â€śthey,â€ť she meant nasty old corporations â€śspending nearly $17 billion a year trying to sell their products to our kids.â€ť Couricâ€™s one-sided May 14 piece blamed the â€śfar-reaching tentaclesâ€ť of business for all sorts of lifeâ€™s ills from obesity to young people having sex. The makers of â€śShrekâ€ť were even criticized for working with the government to help curb childhood obesity.
No business was even given a chance at rebuttal.
But business critics certainly had their chance. Couric relied on four voices to flesh out the nearly five-minute story â€“ all critical of business. She told viewers that children are targets. â€śThey have money to spend and corporate
Her story included a representative from the anti-industry group the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, an author of an anti-industry book and one of the most left-wing senators in Congress.
CBS even threw in a bit of liberal criticism from popular left-wing TV show â€śThe Colbert Reportâ€ť which knocked â€śShrekâ€ť producers for also making marketing deals with snack foods and cereals.
The only neutral commentator was
The whole package combined with Couric to deliver an attack not just on one industry, but on industries ranging from food to toys to restaurants and cars. It wasnâ€™t just an attack, it was open warfare. The story cited a wide range of businesses and products by name such as American Express, Baby Einstein, Chuck E. Cheese, Band-Aids and Oral-B toothbrushes. All were criticized for perfectly legal marketing tactics.
Dr. Susan Linn, from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, took some of the most sweeping shots at industry. â€śAdvertising and marketing is a factor in childhood obesity, in eating disorders, precocious irresponsible sexuality, youth violence, underage drinking, underaged tobacco use.â€ť
Couric added that marketing is â€śturning our kids into mini shop-a-holics, itâ€™s teaching them the wrong values, that itâ€™s not about who you are but what you have.â€ť
She turned to Susan Gregory Thomas, â€śan investigative journalist and author of the book â€śBuy, Buy Baby,â€ť for further criticism. The camera zoomed into focus on the bookâ€™s title, skipping the more obvious anti-business subtitle â€śHow Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds.â€ť
Thomas attacked business use of â€ścharactersâ€ť like Dora the Explorer or Elmo â€śThe only other scenario in which they're going to encounter these characters is in a scenario in which that character is trying to sell them something, backpacks, Band-Aids, toothbrushes,â€ť she said.
While Couric at least raised the issue of personal responsibility, she set it up so Linn could knock it back down. â€śIsn't it up to parents, Dr. Linn, to help their children become discriminating consumers?â€ť
Linnâ€™s response was all about regulation. â€śItâ€™s unfair and, and naive to expect that parents on their own are going to be able to do a great job of coping with this. They need help. They need help from the government,â€ť she argued.
Couric immediately followed that with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), he responded with a typical liberal solution. Harkin, who scored a 100 percent liberal ranking with the Americans for Democratic Action in 2006, was pushing to give the Federal Trade Commission more regulatory power.