Sinclair Broadcast Group will stop producing the must-run political commentary segments that have attracted the company a lot of criticism since former Trump White House staffer Boris Epshteyn began hosting them.
Willa Paskin: “Friends, bingers, countrymen, I come to bury television, not to praise it. 2019 was the first year I started to look askance at something I have said thousands of time: ‘I love television.’ This phrase, which had previously seemed so pedestrian and yet so true, the cozy benediction lobbed at a loved one on their way out the door, suddenly became strange.”
Jim Brady: “While we’ve been chasing that adulation and virality, social has been chipping away at the core of what journalism has spent decades building.”
Hank Price: “With the unfortunate demise of print, leading television groups are making an even stronger commitment to local investigations. They are doing this with a full understanding of the financial costs. Why? Because they are in the journalism business. That means putting the well-being of the communities they serve first, no matter the cost or political pressure.”
ZypMedia’s Aman Sareen says OTT advertising is poised to overtake ads on linear TV given a perfect storm of proliferating services, audience receptivity to streaming ads and better targetability.
Congress is debating whether to renew the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act, commonly referred to as STELAR, past Dec. 31, when it’s set to expire. Dr. George Ford, with the Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy Studies, says focus is on a key question: Should broadcasters get to charge whatever retransmission fee the market will bear?
Dan Kennedy: “There are two elephants in the room that are threatening to destroy local news. One, technological disruption, is widely understood: the internet has undermined the value of advertising and driven it to Craigslist, Facebook and Google, thus eliminating most of the revenues that used to pay for journalism. But the other, corporate greed, is too often regarded as an effect rather than as a cause.”
Joe Ferullo: “Lying just below big headlines from the impeachment hearings was an urgent message for mainstream media: The rules of the journalism game need to change, because a formidable player — Russia — won’t leave the arena. The game I’m talking about is how “opposition research” becomes news.
David Zurawik: “Baltimore TV news needs to get better if this city is ever going to improve. And in all the years I have been writing about media at The Sun, I have seen very little evidence that any of the major stations here are committed to making that happen. That’s one of the most disheartening things I know about Baltimore media. And it was reinforced this month by an outside review of local TV news.”
Margaret Sullivan: “If every American gave 30 minutes a day to an earnest and open-minded effort to stay on top of the news, we might actually find our way out of this crisis.”
on Wednesday — as televised impeachment hearings begin in the House of Representatives — journalists need to be on their game. The stakes don’t get much higher when it comes to fulfilling their core mission: informing citizens of what they really need to know.
The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik: In 2016, I wrote a piece about the fall of Fox News chief Roger Ailes in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations. I thought of him as a monster because of the sick, toxic, misogynistic workplace environment he created at Fox News as he harassed, assaulted and abused women and put people in power who did the same. But three years and multiple allegations of similar behavior by Les Moonves and Charlie Rose at CBS, Matt Lauer at NBC, Bill O’Reilly at Fox and, of course, film mogul Harvey Weinstein at Miramax, it is clear that Ailes’ actions were not some extraordinarily evil, beyond the pale kind of behavior, as the word monster might imply. Instead, we now know Ailes’ actions were closer to the norm for too many men of power in the news and entertainment industries. But it gets worse.”
Manual processes and outdated back-office technology are the primary reasons that national spot buys are difficult to execute and have a tendency to underperform. The challenge in implementing new solutions generally boils down to two areas: technology and automation priorities and the associated costs.
Twitter will no longer allow political advertising, a move that places Twitter and Jack Dorsey in stark contrast to Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg.
Patricia Jo Boyers: “Smaller pay television providers are under assault from the excessive demands of local TV stations. Congress needs to step in and support legislative reforms that curb the undue price hikes and sudden signal blackouts designed to turn consumers against their traditional pay-TV providers.”
Alan Sealls: “In my ‘hiatus’ from a 30-plus year career as a broadcast meteorologist, I have a little more time to reflect on TV news and weather. When I venture out in public, I get a focus group of unsolicited opinion. I interact frequently with kids and adults in formal presentations and hear what they think about our industry. Here are seven simple thoughts that I think can strengthen broadcast news and meteorology.”
Hank Price: “Every local general manager and news director is well aware of their need to constantly build and maintain viewer trust. Trust is not optional. To lose it is to go out of business.”
Margaret Sullivan: As interviews get tougher, Team Trump doubles down on avoidance. By ending the daily press briefing — it’s now been well over 200 days since the last one — the Trump White House has shown clearly that it’s not interested in being responsive to questions asked on behalf of the public. The near-withdrawal from the Sunday programs is another step in that direction.
Margaret Sullivan: “As the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry ramps up, so, too, does the Trump disinformation campaign — spreading its fact-adverse surrogates throughout the media world in an all-out effort to sway public opinion. With the stakes so high, the media has to step up more than ever before to help news consumers — American citizens — figure out where they stand.”
Impressions-based advertising will not be the last word in consumer measurement, but it is an important transitional step to the future. In a few years we will look back and wonder why it took so long.
The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik: “I held my tongue when ABC announced that Sean Spicer was going to be on Dancing with the Stars. I thought there were a million more pressing matters on the media beat that deserved coverage. Besides I felt like I was written out on denunciations of him and his lies from the podium of the White House by the time Donald Trump pushed him out as press secretary. But after watching Spicer’s debut Monday on the show’s season premiere, I started to seethe.”
Margaret Sullivan: “President Trump requires no translation or interpretation when it comes to his plan for going after national news outlets as Campaign 2020 kicks into high gear. On Monday, he made his intentions clear in a couple of rambling, overcapitalized tweets: ‘Our real opponent is not the Democrats, or the dwindling number of Republicans that lost their way and got left behind.’ No, he wrote, ‘our primary opponent is the Fake News Media.’ ”
Matthew Bell, former Amazon Studios head of strategic planning: As media monoliths bundle their offerings, consumers will once again have to pay for a bunch of shows they don’t want.
Hank Price: There is no question ATSC 3.0 will be a great quality advance for television stations. The picture alone makes the upgrade a must have, but it too will be challenged by a wireless competitor: 5G. 5G will empower two-way 3.0 services, but it will also function as a direct competitor, offering far more services than 3.0 alone is capable of.
Joe Ferullo: “The evening newscasts, even now, remain an important counter to all of this, a way to escape the deluge and to begin sorting out what really matters among the day’s events. That mission is never more valuable than in days like these, when so much alleged information seems unmoored from context and substance.”
Ask most journalists about the future, and a look of demoralized panic will wash across their faces. Yes, technology makes modern-day reporting faster and more accurate, and the internet has been a boon to journalism and the art of keeping tabs on your local government. But it has also nearly disintegrated a once-prosperous business model that supported robust news gathering for more than a century.
Margaret Sullivan: “Sadly, we in the news media know just how to do it. When a mass shooting happens, even when it happens twice in a 24-hour period — even when the death toll soars into the dozens — we reflexively spring into action. If journalism is supposed to be a positive force in society — and we know it can be — this is doing no good. Nothing changes.”
With frustratingly tiny and rigidly enforced response time, outsize attention to fringe candidates and divisive questions — some of which could have been framed by the Republican National Committee — the first Detroit debate was a lost opportunity to inform the voting public. The debate format is an embarrassment. Here’s how to make it better.
For now, most station groups continue to use representation, indicating a desire to make the system work, but no one can ignore the dramatic change in landscape. Unless the reps learn to serve the new marketplace, their days are numbered.
NAB’s Patrick McFadden: “The conventional wisdom in the communications arena is that the United States is engaged in a race to be the first nation to deploy the next generation of wireless technology: 5G. But while many insist on the importance of winning the “Race to 5G,” we somehow can’t quite get out of the starting blocks.”
Emotion now blankets the media landscape like an infant’s crib at bedtime. Google “Shepard Smith emotional,” and up come nearly 3 million results, many of them focused on the Fox anchor’s recent visceral response to immigrant suffering. A search of “Rachel Maddow crying” delivers more than 1 million offerings. Contemporary culture trusts feelings over facts, rewards heated emotion — tears or anger — and rejects medium cool. The effect on journalism is unmistakable. And a lot of the blame can be placed on those all-too-common twin devils: television and the internet.
With Norah O’Donnell taking over the anchor chair on Monday, new female leadership at CBS News aims to revive the kind of trust once enjoyed by stalwarts such as Walter Cronkite.
With the financial pressure on system operators, pitted against need for broadcasters to eventually achieve parity with the most-watched cable networks, retrans fights and blackouts are bound to sometimes happen. The sad reality is that in the short term everyone loses. Viewers lose their favorite programs, stations lose news viewers, DirecTV loses subscribers and station general managers lose their minds.
Hearst Television’s Emerson Coleman: “We have all benefited from Lew’s pioneering work. We are thankful for what he has given us today and for all the ways that he has already contributed to the next generation.”