Tension Between Networks and Obama Administration Could Get Uglier

By Erik Sorenson 

The latest White House request for an hour of prime-time fell on less receptive network ears, with top news execs from CBS and NBC openly questioning the newsworthiness of said request. President Obama has done “big” interviews with all manner of broadcast and cable network anchors in the past month and has been setting a blistering pace for prime-time press conferences. According to Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post, the White House went to GE Chairman Jeff Immelt and Disney CEO Bob Iger to clear time for the most recent appearance on the economy and health care reform.

This is another classic case of Be Careful What You Wish For. From 2003 through 2008, the media lamented a President who rarely held press conferences and almost never granted interviews. Now, we are seeing the opposite extreme in Barack Obama, who is available in the extreme. While the print press chafes on the sidelines, cable news people are delighted with the new openness. However, broadcasters are beginning to show signs of annoyance. And it could get even uglier come fall.

Let’s face it, it’s one thing to preempt “Wipeout” or repeats of “CSI” and “30 Rock”. However, it is quite another matter to upend new episodes of hits like “Criminal Minds” or “House,” not to mention big new investments like “Mercy” or “Flash Forward.” Broadcasters have enough problems going into this television season with falling ratings and CPM’s. They don’t need hijackings of airtime by a White House trying to “control the message.”

Erik Sorenson is chief executive officer of Vault.com, Inc. He oversees the strategic direction of the global, New York-based media company, including ShopTalk & TVSPY. If you would like to comment on Remote Control, or want to reach Erik, email remotecontrol@tvspy.