question of the day: Could the American broadcast networks be bigger crybabies?

They’re at it again: ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC are complaining because President Obama has asked for some primetime access to discuss with the American public his first 100 days in office. As the New York Post explains:

[P]rogrammers are starting to act peeved at Obama’s primetime interruptions — one a month since January — because every speech and press conference results in a loss of ad revenue and scheduling problems.

In his first 100 days in office, former President George W. Bush preempted primetime only once, for his State of the Union Address.

Obama is asking for the 8 p.m. slot on Wednesday to discuss his first 100 days in office. This is inconvenient for the networks because it falls during the May sweeps period.

They bitched back in February, too, before Obama’s primetime press conference. At that time, Chad Rubel at Buzzflash summed up the networks crybabism succinctly:

The major reason networks shouldn’t be complaining is that they don’t own the airwaves with which they broadcast their shows: we do. Without us, the taxpayers and citizens of this country, giving them the airwaves, they wouldn’t be able to make boatloads of money.

The FCC says so itself:

In exchange for obtaining a valuable license to operate a broadcast station using the public airwaves, each radio and television licensee is required by law to operate its station in the “public interest, convenience and necessity.” This means that it must air programming that is responsive to the needs and problems of its local community of license.

Station licensees, as the trustees of the public’s airwaves, must use the broadcast medium to serve the public interest.

(Emphasis mine.)

Now, of course, the networks are not required to air an Obama chat — certainly, there are plenty of supposed requirements of the FCC that are blatantly ignored with no penalty (like the one about educational programming). But with that February press conference garnering almost 40 million viewers spread pretty evenly across the four networks, which is better than almost any of the networks’ own programming, should they really be complaining when at least some of those viewers will have stuck around for what was airing next? Perhaps they could make themselves even more irrelevant than they’ve already become by ignoring a public speech by an immensely popular President…

But even if they have to give up a measly hour or two every month to the President of the United States aren’t they still getting an awesome deal from the American people?

Could the American broadcast networks be bigger crybabies?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me.)

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