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Saturday, July 5, 2008

CABLE TV MEDIA: A PATHETIC STATE OF AFFAIRS

The overwhelming majority of news networks on U.S. cable and satellite YV are corporate-owned. ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FOX, and even offshoots like CNBC and MSNBC are ALL owned directly or indirectly by corporate giants like Viacom, Disney, Time Warner, GE, and others. They each claim to be unbiased and objective in their reporting, but we, the intelligent viewers, know otherwise. For example, not only do you get your news with a slant, but much of it is withheld, partially told, or even omitted altogether. We also get an overload of coverage concerning Hollywood figures, which, in this humble writer's opinion, isn't news at all and should be covered instead by some kind of entertainment network.

In the world of politics, the cable networks fail us miserably. FOX, for example, is little more than the current White House's propaganda bureau. Every right wing or Bush administration talking point is presented verbatim, and liberal or Democratic news or stands on issues are often either omitted completely, given scant or only partial mention, or outright distorted or ridiculed. Pundits like Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and many others twist and distort news stories to fit their narrow ideological beliefs. O'Reilly has even turned off the microphones of guests on his show who have openly challenged his stands. So much for free speech - so much for "fair and balanced reporting" - so much for journalistic integrity! He also spends far too much time attacking network rivals like NBC, MSNBC, and CNN. What a total waste of time and an insult to our intelligence! CNN's Lou Dobbs also presents a slant on his show: Center-right with a streak of economic populism thrown in for good measure. Unlike O'Reilly, he allows those with opposing viewpoints to freely disagree with him and express themselves. But he never allows enough time for each topic or story he covers. Everything is always cut short by the ever-present need to go to a commercial break or move onto the next story. To his credit, though, Mr. Dobbs DOES feature a wide variety of authors, historians, public figures, and topics not oven seen or covered on other networks. MSNBC's Chris Matthews is a most irritating personality. He has a grating, high-pitched voice that always carries a sneer in its tone. His presentation is center-left, and he usually has several trios of pundits on his show "Hardball With Chris Matthews" to help him slice and dice a myriad of politicians and issues down to the subatomic level. But the most irritating thing of all about him is the way he steps on all of his guests. He cuts everybody off all the time, seldom letting them finish a sentence without his interjecting another question or his own opinion over them. Often his guests will get into heated arguments among themselves and the show breaks down into chaos until ol' Chris butts in again. He's like a snide, mouthy little kid in need of a damn good spanking!! If I were in the studio for his show and he cut me off or tried to talk over me the way he does with virtually everybody else, I'd punch him squarely in the mouth. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann's "Countdown" show also draws on a number if pundits, authors, and legal and constitutional experts. His left bias is transparently obvious but what he presents is usually buttressed with solid factual information. But segments of his show are often devoted to persons in the entertainment industry and silly satire. Unlike O'Reilly and Matthews, though, he doesn't step on his guests, treats them with a good deal of respect, and is a polite listener. We would all be far better served if his producers would cut the silly segments of his show and let him spend more time on the issues of the day.

In the world of entertainment, cable TV's penchant for covering the excesses of Hollywood personalities is ridiculous. Nonstop coverage of the goings-on of morons like Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Michael Jackson, and all the rest is not newsworthy in the least. It distracts the public and time spent on these idiots is NOT time spent on important facts or issues worldwide. It does little to enlighten the public or raise the bar in terms of intelligent discussion of actual newsworthy issues or events of the day. This is a travesty.

Cable TV networks also have a disturbing knack for not fully covering the relevant, and instead saturating us with trivial, relatively unimportant things. Whether or not Cindy McCain is more likeable or popular than Michelle Obama is NOT newsworthy! Whether or not John McCain or Bill Clinton blow up angrily at a provocative reporter is NOT newsworthy! Whether or not Barack Obama wears a flag pin is NOT newsworthy! What Obama's minister said in church, or what an evangelical backing McCain said on a podium is NOT newsworthy! Unfortunately, this is the kind of nonsense we are subjected to daily on cable network TV. It's utterly pathetic. What IS important, of course, is the detailed presentation and in-depth analysis of each aspect of a political candidate's platform, as well as that of current issues and occurences around the globe. We get surprisingly narrow coverage of important things like that, however.

Can anybody tell me: Who is the President of Paraguay? Who is being held under house arrest in Myanmar (formerly Burma), and why? What are the hot political issues in The Netherlands right now? Or even in Canada? Shouldn't cable and satel;lite news be giving us insight on these types of things? Aren't these questions more relevant than Britney Spears' latest bad behavioral incident? See my point, everybody?

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