Networks Ignore Business Side of Strike, Even Though They Are the Business
So much for the conspiracy theory that major media conglomerates intentionally distort newscasts toward big corporate interests â because they wonât even defend themselves.
This was evident in network coverage of the two-month-long Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike, including recent decisions to go without a settlement and begin taping late-night shows anyway. Though television companies are losing millions, that business perspective didnât show up in pro-union coverage.
Good because it Created Union âAwareness?â
CBSâs January 3 âEarly Showâ anchor Maggie Rodriguez had a peculiar take in the wake of these decisions by the networks. Advertising revenue from the popular late-night shows was coming in again for the betterment of her employer, but her focus was union and strike awareness.
âDon't you think the writers are the real winners here, because all these comics brought such attention whether they had writers or not to the WGA?â asked Rodriguez.
Rodriguezâs two guests agreed.
âI do,â comedian Nancy Giles said, who admitted earlier she was also a union member.
âI donât think they had any kind of awareness of the writerâs strike until last night,â said TV Guide Editor Stephen Battaglio.
Missing from the Coverage: The Financial Cost of the Strike
The January 2 âNBC Nightly Newsâ ignored the networkâs own financial losses from the WGA strike that forced its popular late-night television shows, âThe Tonight Show with Jay Lenoâ and âLate Night with Conan OâBrien,â off the air.
According to a May 25, 2007, Chicago Tribune article by Media Columnist Phil Rosenthal, estimates put the annual revenue from âThe Tonight Showâ âat well north of $100 million.â So without the show on the air, General Electric Co. (NYSE:GE), the parent company of NBC Universal, was losing millions. But the NBC report didnât mention it.
Late-night comedy programs returned to the air January 2, despite the continued strike. Ironically, the lone pro-NBC statement that night came from the union.
Correspondent Mike Taibbi did report that non-WGA members stood to lose their jobs from the strike, but the explanation came from John Bowman, chairman of the WGA Negotiating Committee.
âThey were forced to go back on the air,â Bowman said. âThey have to or their staffs were going to be fired.â
Striking Writer Plays the âJesusâ Card
The heavily skewed reporting even addressed the question: What would Jesus do?
The question was related to the âTonight Showâ appearance by GOP presidential hopeful and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on January 2. The decision required the outspoken Baptist preacher to cross the picket line.
According to one WGA member on strike outside of NBC Studios in Burbank, Calif., Jesus would have showed solidarity with the writers.
âI donât think Jesus would cross the picket line, no, Iâm almost positive Jesus would be on our side,â the striking writer said to CBSâs January 3 âEarly Show.â