What Did Networks Give Up to Get Access to Trump?

By Mark Joyella Comment

Trump Phoner

Have the television networks given up too much in the chase for Trump-sized ratings?

A report published at BuzzFeed Friday suggests network producers have concerns about the monster they believe they helped create. “The higher-ups say it’s because he’s the Republican frontrunner,” BuzzFeed reporter Kyle Blaine quotes a CNN source. “I think he’s the Republican frontrunner because we’ve given him so much coverage.”

Those higher-ups include CNN president Jeff Zucker, who just yesterday told reporters including Adweek’s Jason Lynch that he did not believe his network’s coverage of Donald Trump has been excessive. “I don’t, because he has been the front-runner of the Republican party since he announced last June…the front-runner of the party is always going to get a disproportionate amount of attention.”

But insiders at several networks expressed concern about the ease with which Trump earned coverage–often coming without much in the way of tough questioning. In part, they told BuzzFeed, it was the ease of getting Trump on the air that fed the coverage:

Trump’s availability to the media for interviews, either on camera or by phone, shocked producers accustomed to dealing with difficult-to-book candidates.
As one veteran producer said, “He’ll throw a hand grenade in, and then will come on to us to talk about it.”

But access at Trump rallies–and efforts by network journalists to ask questions outside the campaign’s designated press pens–led to conflict, and a phone call with representatives of ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and CNN and Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

After several incidents of Trump campaign aides threatening to revoke credentials for reporters who left the fenced-in press pen, representatives from ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, Fox News, and CNN organized a conference call with Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to negotiate access.

According to two sources familiar with the call, the Trump campaign, citing security concerns from Secret Service, dictated to the networks that their camera crews can only shoot Trump head-on from a fenced-in press pen.

Under the Trump campaign’s conditions, camera crews would not be able to leave the press pen during Trump’s rallies to capture video of audience reactions, known in the industry as “cutaway shots” or “cuts.” Networks would also not be able to use a separate riser set up to get cutaway shots.