cj#565> media critique (fwd, AR)


Richard Moore

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Walter M. Brasch
American Reporter Correspondent
San Diego, Calif.

                        DEAD AIR AT THE CONVENTION
                            by Walter M. Brasch
                      American reporter Correspondent

        SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- At the San Diego Convention Center, the
Republican National Committee was finishing preparations for a four-day
convention that will unanimously nominate Bob Dole for the presidency.
        Nearby, Pat Buchanan, whom the Republicans denied the right to
speak to the convention in anything more than a 15-second videotape sound
bite, was giving a major speech to a large horde of dissident Republicans
and a few equally dissident Democrats.
        Two hours north by freeway, at the Long Beach Convention Center,
Ross Perot and former Colorado governor Dick Lamm, who like millions of
their followers don't believe in the policies of either the Democrats or
the Republicans, were giving major campaign speeches in the first of a
two-part Reform Party convention.
        Unless you were watching CNN, the odds were high you missed
hearing what they had to say. ABC chose to run the first of a two-part
docudrama about the singing dysfunctional Jackson family. CBS ran a
five-year-old two-star film; NBC ran a nine-year-old two-star film; Fox
ran "Baywatch Nights."
        Each of the networks plans only five to six hours of prime-time TV
coverage of the Republicans, a few minutes more each day on morning
wake-up programs and the evening news.
        "People know there's nothing really happening here," ABC News
vice-president Jeff Grainick told the Chicago Tribune, then stated that
the "meaningfulness of these conventions has declined." NBC-TV executive
producer Jeff Zucker said he doubted any network would give much coverage
to future conventions. The media believe that if there is no contest,
there is nothing to cover -- forgetting about, or unable to report,
numerous stories related to policies and platforms.
        Nevertheless, networks cite figures to prove their case of why they
shouldn't waste their -- and our -- time on coverage. Fewer than 40
percent of Americans are expected to watch any part of the Republican
convention. Because an incumbent president is the likely Democratic
nominee, a smidgen more might watch the Democratic convention in Chicago.
Only about 4 million Americans at any time watched the 1992 conventions.
        In contrast, the equally quadrennial Olympics attracted about 25
million Americans at any time, with more than a billion watching at least
one part of the 17-day event. Driven by advertising and ratings, TV has
assumed that electing a president must be irrelevant when compared to
watching emaciated squeaky-voiced girls doing flips on a 4-inch wide piece
of wood.
        Cable networks CNN, C-SPAN, and upstart MSNBC are planning more
complete coverage. But fewer than 25 percent of Americans have access to
those cable networks. It doesn't take a political scientist to figure out
that when the major networks choose not to cover an event, it won't be
        The Republicans claim the reason they couldn't give Pat Buchanan --
or any of the candidates in the primaries -- any time to speak at the
convention is because there was limited "prime time" available, and all
the slots were filled. Apparently, if the cameras aren't turned on,
nothing exists. The Republican-selected speakers, keyed to TV's attention
span, will give only 10-minute speeches; Bob Dole will give only a
25-minute acceptance speech.
        Instead of running a convention they way it should be done, and
letting the media just cover it, the major parties have pandered to the
media, not unlike the Olympics selling out to NBC's jingoistic coverage or
professional sports creating artificial time-outs so TV can run
        Campaigns today are being run on, and by, television. Most campaign
funds are being spent on TV ads, not in establishing an effective
grassroots organizing campaign -- the kind with candidates going into
communities and talking boldly about America and the future -- and not
worrying about creating a 7-second sound bite that would "play better" on
        Even when the cameras are on, the focus is on Establishment
politics.  Democrats and Republicans get coverage; the others get token
nods. About 16,000 accredited media personnel -- most of them reporting
what local delegate Aunt Matilda ate for breakfast -- are expected at the
Democratic and Republican conventions; only about 400 are expected at Part
2 of the Reform Party's convention next week in Valley Forge.
        And not many are expected to hear Ralph Nader or any of the other
so-called "minor party" candidates who may have even better plans for
American than do Bob Dole or Bill Clinton. But, who the media determine
are not significant candidates leads the public to fall into a lockstep
agreement. And that, more than the lack of coverage of the two major
conventions, is why the American political process and the media need to
be overhauled.


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          Copyright 1996 Joe Shea, The American Reporter
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    Posted by Richard K. Moore  -  •••@••.•••  -  Wexford, Ireland
     Cyberlib:  www | ftp --> ftp://ftp.iol.ie/users/rkmoore/cyberlib