Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Was it something I said? WaPo's fixation on Rand Paul and 'libertarian populism'. The big news on Monday was that the Graham family has sold the Washington Post to Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon. Amazon chief to buy paper, sister publications for $250M (no state sales tax and free shipping!)
But John Nichols of The Nation says that the other big news on Monday, RNC chair Reince Priebus threatening to ban CNN and NBC from the GOP clown car primary debates in 2016, is a bigger story than Bezos buying WaPo:
The big media story this week is not the purchase of The Washington Post by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
For as long as there have been newspapers, rich people have bought them as toys and tools.
So, while it is significant that Bezos bought the Post for $250 million, this is not exactly a definitional development on the media landscape.
Bezos is not even the only rich guy to buy a major metropolitan daily
paper in the past week. It was announced on Saturday that Boston Red
Sox owner John W. Henry has purchased another of the twenty-five largest dailies in the United States, The Boston Globe, for $70 million.
If new owners maintain old papers pretty much as they have been,
that’s not dramatic news. Indeed, the only real “news” may be that
newspapers, which cannot survive as publicly traded entities where
stockholders demand big payouts, might have a future as the vanity
projects of rich people. Or even better, as nonprofit entities, cooperatives and public trusts.
So if the sale of the Post is not as dramatic a development as might initially seem to be the case, what is?
The big deal in media this week has to do with the relationship of
broadcast and cable news networks to the two major political parties.
And it matters—more—because it gets to a question that is at the heart
of all of our discussions about the future of print, broadcast and
digital media: will we have a sufficient journalism, and a sufficiently
independent journalism, to sustain democracy?
Ever since the Democratic and Republican parties took over the nation’s presidential debates in 1987, with the creation of a corporate-funded
“Commission on Presidential Debates” run by the former chairs of the
Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee, the
dialogue in presidential election years has been the ultimate insiders’
Debate rules have for a quarter-century been dictated by parties and campaigns,
not by the television networks that present them—and certainly not by
nonpartisan good-government groups such as the League of Women Voters,
which used to organize debates before the parties elbowed them aside.
The change has resulted in a degeneration of the discourse that has
tended to reinforce the status quo rather than extend America’s
experiment with democracy.
Parallel to the commission’s management of fall debates featuring the
presidential and vice presidential nominees of the major parties . . . there’s been an equally ugly phenomenon: the “partnering” of major
parties with networks to organize debates between candidates seeking
The partnering deals have been just as ugly as the corruption of the election process by the Commission on Presidential Debates.
That ugliness went public this week when Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus threatened a broadcast network, NBC, and a cable network, CNN, over planned projects on Hillary Clinton.
* * *
Because Clinton might seek the Democratic presidential nod in 2016,
Priebus says NBC must cancel plans for a four-hour mini-series and CNN
must dump its plan for a documentary. Presuming that the projects would
be positive in their portrayals of Clinton, despite the fact that she’s
been a frequently controversial figure, Priebus accused each network of engaging in a “thinly-veiled attempt at putting a thumb on the scales of the 2016 presidential election.”
Priebus has a long history of complaining about media coverage of his party and its candidates. [Working the refs.]
* * *
So the chairman’s letter would have been stashed in the “whiner” file, except for one component: the threat.
“If you have not agreed to pull this programming prior to the start of the RNC’s summer meeting on August 14,” wrote Priebus,
“I will seek a binding vote of the RNC stating that the committee will
neither partner with you in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary
debates which you sponsor.”
The reactions from the networks were uninspired. NBC News declined to
comment; CNN offered a vapid, “We would encourage the members of the
Republican National Committee to reserve judgment until they know more.”
The networks should have told Priebus, “Good riddance!”
Partnerships between the networks and the major political parties are
a far greater concern than the ownership of newspapers by new
generations of rich people. By cutting deals with the parties to host
“exclusive” primary debates, and by accepting the parameters established
by the two major parties for fall debates, the networks defer to the
political establishment in the worst of ways.
It’s time for the networks, wealthy and powerful entities that they
are, to declare independence from the major parties. If they want to
partner with the League of Women Voters, which remains honorably committed to fairness and openness, that’s great. If they want to work with groups such as Common Cause, or state-based good government organizations and, yes, newspapers, that’s terrific.
But the network partnerships with the parties reinforce the worst status quo instincts—in
our media and our politics. Americans should be interested in who owns
newspapers, but they should be indignant about an arrangement that has
television news operations negotiating with, partnering with and being
threatened by political parties.
Jed Lewison at Daily Kos adds, Priebus admits Republicans can't handle presidential primary debates:
If you took him at his word, when RNC chairman Reince Priebus threatened yesterday afternoon
to ban CNN and NBC from GOP's 2016 primary debates, his only concern
was stopping the networks from airing favorable programs about Hillary
Today, however, Priebus is admitting that the content of the programs
isn't the issue, telling Fox News that "it doesn't matter what the
movie is like." Regardless of the substance of what the networks air,
Priebus said the RNC would forge ahead with the ban. Here's why:
I think 23 debates is ridiculous, but the second thing that
is ridiculous is allowing moderators, who are not serving the best
interests of the candidate and the party, to actually be the people to
be deposing our people. And I think that's totally wrong.
So Reince Priebus says he only wants debate moderators who have the
GOP's best interests at heart and he's moving forward with a plan to ban
CNN and MSNBC (along with both MSNBC and CNBC) … leaving Fox News as
the only cable network standing.
I guess that's Reince's way of saying Fox has the GOP's best
interests at heart, not that there was ever any doubt. Still, it's nice
seeing the GOP chairman effectively admit he thinks Fox is a Republican
Reince Priebus insists that GOP candidates appear only before a hand-picked audience, with hand-picked moderators, asking hand-picked questions to "catapult the propaganda," as George W. Bush once said. Everything is stage-managed GOPropaganda today. Tea-Publicans do not want to have to answer the hard questions (i.e., our "Questions for Martha McSally" series on Blog for Arizona). They are cowards.
* TeaNN (formerly CNN) even hired Tea Party analysts in advance of the 2012 primary season to secure participation in the "Survivor – GOP Presidential Primary" debates, sacrificing its journalistic independence for financial profit and ratings.
When Americans complain about money in politics, much of that money winds up in the coffers of television organizations for paid political advertising. The media profits off the corruption of our political system. The "watchdogs of democracy" are now part of the problem.