Tuesday, January 15, 2008

NBC Blows It in Kucinich Debate Fiasco [Updated]

***Update: MSNBC just reported (8:12 pm) that the Nevada Supreme Court ruled to vacate the injunction against airing a debate without Kucinich. Another blow to democracy.***

****Update #2: MSNBC personality and failing talk show host Tucker Carlson characterized the issue as one of "judges deciding who gets to be on TV" and the company is calling it a First Amendment issue. In other words, NBC has the First Amendment right to decide the political discourse in this country. Their speech is protected from our right to know where the candidates stand. Another blow to the Constitution.****

--Sending a signal to the American people that it has the right to select the presidential candidates presented to them, NBC today appealed a court decision that would have barred tonight's Democratic presidential debate if the media corporation excluded Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

In early January, according to the New York Times, Kucinich met the conditions the media giant set for being included in tonight's debate to be aired on its cable network MSNBC [and locally on KVBC in LAS Vegas on air [updated info: 11:20 pm]. After the results in Iowa and New Hampshire caused Richardson, Dodd, and Biden to exit the race, however, NBC arbitrarily altered its criteria and announced its intention to exclude the Ohio representative.

Kucinich sued. And he won, arguing that not only was NBC in effect endorsing three candidates by doing so, they were in breach of their contract by arbitrarily changing their criteria.

For its part, NBC argued, according to the Times, that it has every right to arbitrarily set criteria for who is included in debates, implying of course that it has a right to tell voters who they should vote for and what issues should be discussed.

Nevada District Court Judge Charles Thompson sided with Kucinich and issued an order against airing the debate unless Kucinich is included.

NBC's smarmy political director Chuck Todd is quoted as saying the decision to arbitrarily exclude Rep. Kucinich was “a good faith editorial choice of a privately-owned cable network to limit debate participants based on the status of their campaigns.”

In other words, Todd is admitting that NBC's business practices and editorial choices are related to General Electric's ownership of the company he works for? What other interpretation of these remarks could there be? NBC wanted to exclude Kucinich because in their editorial judgment Kucinich is "bad TV." And TV is all about the dollars, right, not debate, discussion, issues?

If Todd isn't fibbing when he further claimed that the decision to exclude Kucinich, and, presumably, the subsequent legal battle to have the court's injunction against the exclusion overturned by the Nevada Supreme Court, was not intended to reflect the corporation's political bias, then it was a business decision.

NBC may be privately owned, but it doesn't own the airwaves, and it doesn't own the political process in this country. NBC has no right, private multinational corporation or not, to decide who will stand on a stage and discuss the issues facing working families.

Todd's statement and NBC's actions reflect the sort of media elitism that disgusts most Americans.


Carly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carly said...

his is outrageous. i was so excited to see dennis speak up for myself and his many loyal supporters...i have already contacted MSNBC to let them know i will not be tuning in to their network or affiliates in the future. i suggest you all do the same! we cannot allow this sort of crap anymore.

Anonymous said...

It's true NBC doesn't own the airwaves, but its cable company doesn't use the airwaves so MSNBC is not subject to the FCC regulations of fair use and equal time which may have helped their appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court. The other Democratic candidates have no respect for democracy either or they would all refuse to participate on principle unless Kucinich was included. An injury to one is an injury to all is a notion far from their consciousnesses.

MyShirtSucks.com said...


Joel said...

"...its cable company doesn't use the airwaves..." a legal distinction not a moral, ethical, or philosophical one, I presume.

Joel said...

Another technical point: it is my understanding that though this program was broadcast nationally on cable, it was also broadcast locally on traditional "air waves." So indeed fair use and equal time does seem to apply.

SAugsburger said...

I don't mean to break up the Kucinich rant here, but the first amendment doesn't require privately held media to do ANYTHING. Why do adults who should know better keep making this mistake. The first amendment prevents the government from silencing the media like we are seeing in Russia, Pakistan, etc. The First Amendment doesn't require the government to give nutjobs like Kucinich a free soapbox to stand on(access to privately organized debates). The author and anyone who didn't notice this mistake should go read the constitution before they spout about how the corporate media is violating the constitution by not giving fringe candidates access to debate events.

The only reason I think Kucinich may have any recourse is because they changed their standards.

NBC has just as much right as the NY Times, LA Times or heck even the Socialist Worker "to tell voters who they should vote for and what issues should be discussed." If you don't like that than I guess you don't like a free press. There are plenty of countries like Russia or Pakistan or Iran where you can go enjoy a censored press if that's what you want. Somehow I don't think you really want that.

Joel seems to overestimate how many people agree with him. I think most Americans wouldn't know about "NBC's actions" unless someone told them. Furthermore, not everyone who knows about it is disgusted. I hate to be a party pooper, but Kucinich is a fringe candidate because a lot of people wouldn't support his agenda even without his name attached to it.

Joel said...

Saugsburger is all confused. It's the kind of thinking that says disparities of wealth, power, and voice do not matter, corporations have rights dammit.

Saugsburger should also note that the author's characterization of this as a First Amendment issue relates as much to the NBC corporations' right to have a free media as to the public's right to have real political diversity.

The two have to be balanced and that is what is behind the original effort to ensure that air waves are not privately owned but a public entity.

I regret that saugsburger accepts the current reality in which powerful corporations get to tell him who is viable and legitimate. How unfortunate for democracy!