Easy on Sunday Morning. (THE FRONT)
Weissman, Robert, Multinational Monitor
WASHINGTON, D.C. POLITICS revolve around issues related to corporate power -- from trade agreements to the minimum wage, from environmental protection to antitrust enforcement.
But a new study conducted by Essential Information, the publisher of Multinational Monitor, concludes that the Sunday morning television political talk shows fail to touch on corporate power concerns. The environment, labor rights, corporate welfare, corporate crime and victims' right to sue corporations go virtually unmentioned on the Sunday talk shows.
"Sunday Morning Political Talk Shows Ignore Corporate Power Issues," by Justin Elga and George Farah, finds that topics loosely related to corporate power make up only 4 percent of the discussion topics on the talk shows [see http://www.essentialaction.org/spotlight/report/index.html].
Elga and Farah's conclusions are based on a review of every transcript of Meet the Press, Face the Nation, The McLaughlin Group, and This Week aired between June 1995 and June 1996 and during the last six months of 1999.
The report also highlights the shows' near total exclusion of newsmaker guests from the ranks of labor, environmental, consumer, anti-corporate globalization or other public interest groups.
The shows' almost exclusive preference is for presidential candidates, high administration officials or Congressional leaders -- though former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed was a frequent guest when he headed that right-wing lobby.
Horserace politics dominate the political gabfests, with corporate power shunted to the sidelines.
Elga and Farah juxtapose what topics were and were not discussed on the shows:
"During the June 1995 - June 1996 period," they note, "Colin Powell was the topic of Sunday morning conversation 47 times, corporate crime 0. Travelgate was an issue 27 times, whereas corporate welfare was mentioned once in a list of Clinton's accomplishments. The shows discussed O.J. Simpson 16 times, environmental matters 0. They talked about the Christian right nine times, but never about consumer issues such as bank charges, phone charges or HMO abuses. ... Roundtable pundits argued about Oliver Stone's 'Nixon' on two occasions but never discussed renewable energy, redlining or block-busting. The shows never even mentioned the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund or foreign aid, but one show made the weather, complete with a guest from the National Weather Service, the center of discussion. Only a single program, This Week, so much as discussed the telecommunications bill and media mergers, which relate closely to the owners of these Sunday programs."
In the first six months of 1999, they report, "Aside from the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill, the most discussed issue concerning corporate power was HMOs and a Patient Bill of Rights, Ranked 26, well after Ken Starr, the Middle East peace process, the controversial Brooklyn art exhibit, Egypt Air Flight 990 and Jesse Ventura. The only other issues concerning corporate power discussed during the second half of 1999 were free trade with China and the Microsoft antitrust case. The McLaughlin Group also devoted a segment of a single episode to urban sprawl."
"Instead of addressing consumer issues, environmental matters, corporate crime, the IMF, the WTO, labor rights or the minimum wage," they write, "shows devoted time to topics like the women's World Cup soccer victory, a moon landing tribute, Jerry Springer's possible senatorial campaign, a heat wave, Tina Brown's kickoff party for Talk Magazine, mail order brides, father's day and football player Reggie White's religious views.
Elga and Farah do not account for this state of affairs but they permit themselves some speculation.
"Is it too much to suspect that corporate influence over the networks, the shows and the guests in part explains the remarkable omission of issues related to corporate power? …