Written 1135 pm Feb 19, 1991 by greenbase in cdpmideast.media GP PUNDIT WATCH #4 A Weekly

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----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Written 11:35 pm Feb 19, 1991 by greenbase in cdp:mideast.media GP PUNDIT WATCH #4 A Weekly Analysis of Persian Gulf News Coverage "There is a risk, in this rush to judgment, of distortion, misunderstanding, blunder, and confusion of values. The joke at NBC used to be that if the network could only get a sponsor, the next war in the Middle East would be 'brought to you live.'" (Former NBC reporter Marvin Kalb, assessing TV coverage in the introductionto the 1990 book "The Media and Foreign Policy [St. Martin's Press]). Well, Mr. Kalb, the next war in the Middle East is being brought to us live, but the sponsors are another matter. This week in Pundit Watch 4, we'll examine the effect of the war on advertisers, and vice versa. We'll also look at the Network's Civilian Pundits-in-Residence at the Pentagon, and the war's acceleration of the disappearance of liberal commentators. "People who watch Rambo movies, people who watch war on TV, some of these fellows who have never owned a draft card but are these great military analysts that we run into in our nation's capital who write columns advocating war, they don't know what the hell they're talking about." Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf (2/11 US News & World Report). THIS WEEK IN THE PUNDIT TRENCHES The crinkling of paper could be heard all over Washington Friday morning. After Iraq's strings-attached peace proposal raised, then dashed hopes for peace, the five seers of the McLaughlin Group tossed out their "I Knew It All Along" speeches prepared for that evening's show.Pat Buchanan suggested that Saddam's peace ploy was an attempt to get out of Kuwait "with honor." The former Nixon speechwriter and caddy did not intend any Vietnam irony. Buchanan also flaunted his First Amendment wisdom, offering a novel defense of CNN's Baghdad correspondent Peter Arnett. "It is not the function of CNN to start pulling their guys out. If they're hurting the war effort, the President should (pull them out)." Jack Germond, offered a genuinely articulate defense of Arnett, but referred to his patriotism. Like NBC's Garrick Utley on Meet the Press a week earlier, Germond forgot that Arnett is a New Zealander.The intrepid Buchanan offered a prediction of ground war "before next week." Germond predicted an Iraqi coup "within the next two weeks." But the week's most enlightened comment came from Tom Friedman on the PBS show "Washington Week in Review." Friedman, whose varied resume includes a stint developing cultural sensitivity as a New York Times Middle East correspondent, likened the war of words in the Middle East to "arguing over a carpet." SPONSORING THE WAR Some of the first stateside casualties of the Gulf war were the ad revenues of the major news organizations. Each of the networks has reported huge financial losses since the beginning of the conflict. The networks are now scrambling to "sell" the war to advertisers. Promises to compromise editorial integrity may be part of the sales pitch. Gun-shy advertisers began pulling ads even before shots were fired, worried that hawking Big Mac attacks might seem ghoulish juxtaposed against news footage of Scud attacks. The networks delivered a 15% increase in viewers the first week of the war, yet losses from advertising revenues combined with the exceptional cost of covering the war could put losses as high as $1-3 million per day. The travel industry and oil companies have led the retreat. TWA put all advertising on hold with the outbreak of the war. Oil companies have scaled advertising back considerably, perhaps not wanting to seem overly gleeful about a war that's already boosted fourth quarter profits for some upwards of 50% for some oil companies (See Pundit Watch II) Paradoxically, CNN, which appeals to clients accustomed to advertising during news programming, has attracted a surge in new advertisers, but is still losing money. CNN was able to jack up ad rates for 30-second commercials from between $4,000 to $5,000 before the war to $20,000 to $60,000 today for new clients. However, expanded war coverage has bumped more than 14,000 of CNN's commercials prompting losses of up to $500,000 a week, according to Advertising Age (2/4). Since the first week of the war, networks have cut back on war updates that pre-empted entertainment programming and dumped news specials about the war. But even with these concessions and the dearth of actual combat images, advertisers still aren't buying. Advertising Age (2/4) reported that advertising giants like Procter & Gamble Co., General Motors Corp. and McDonalds are exercising options that allow them to cancel up to 50% of advanced advertising commitments 90days before the new quarter starts on April 1. The networks have launched a counter-offensive to lure back sponsors whichmay threaten both the extent and the editorial integrity of their war coverage. Broadcasting (2/21) reported that CBS and NBC sent letters similar to ABC's which assured clients that "no commercial breaks will be scheduled immediately before or after scenes of actions." "After a segment about a chemical attack that includes a shot of a disfigured face, it might not be the best time to talk about Oil of Olay skin care," Richard Dale, an ad executive with Deutsch Advertising, told the New York Times (2/7). Ironically, as James Workman reported in the New Republic (2/18) an ad for Vaseline Intensive Care "to reduce that itchy, burning sensation" aired rightafter a CNN report on missile attacks in Tel Aviv that included a demonstration on how to minimize skin damage from gas attacks. CBS went a step further, hinting it would provide plenty of patriotic coverage. Network execs assured advertisers that special programming could be tailored so commercials could be inserted after segments "that were specially produced with upbeat images or messages about the war, like patriotic images from the home front," wrote Bill Carter in the New York Times (2/7) If in their desperation the networks are willing to play on patriotism in special news programming, it seems only logical to assume that regular news programming, which is losing money on a nightly basis, will also come under pressure to produce more happy news. This might explain why television has so thoroughly dismissed the peace movement, while playing up pro-war demonstrations. And what about the score in the Scud-Patriot game? Aerial duels continue over Israel,but television coverage of the attacks has dropped off dramatically, despite the fact that the Scud attacks account for what were until this week some of the only civilian bomb damage footage of the war. A Network executive at ABC told Pundit Watch that the Network's number 1 position protects news division programming. "We have the luxury of placing programming on the air that we know won't be profitable." For example, prior to theNovember elections ABC ran a special on the abortion issue that most advertisers wouldn't touch. Peter Lund, executive vice-president of CBS broadcasting group, in explaining why CBS would produce less prime-time news specials despite good ratings, revealed just how beholden his news division has become to sponsors. "In fairness to our shareholders, we can't lose $1 million every time we do one of them, and we are losing an easy million between what we lose in ad revenue and the production costs." (NYT 2/7) This corporate attitude completely contradicts the original mandate of network news, Mike Schiffer of NYU's Center for War Peace and the News Media told Pundit Watch. Network news divisions were originally established to provide a public service in return for the broadcaster's right to use the airwaves. Traditionally it was expected that revenue from entertainment programming would carry the news divisions. "When people are pulling advertising out from news programs and networks are saying that news programs have to carry themselves, it can have a devastating effect," Schiffer said. "One would hope that at some point somebody in there,whether Tom Brokaw or Peter Jennings, would stand up and say 'we have to get the news out even if we are losing a 1 million a day.' " The Pentagon "Correspondents" Wolf Blitzer of CNN may have become an instant household figure in the waragainst Iraq, but Bob Zelnick of ABC, Dave Martin of CBS, and Fred Francis of NBC are the regular troops deployed in Room 2E770 at the Pentagon. Reinforced by second string stand-ins during the round-the-clock vigil, these reporters get a few minutes nightly to provide military advice to the network anchors, and to the American people. Pentagon reporting is not the front lines -- there are no gas masks, no on-location pictures of fighter aircraft or missiles, never an interview with thefoot "soldiers" populating the Pentagon battlefield. It is what the Pentagon correspondents have to say on the air, usually as talking heads, that is valued. The Pentagon jocks are also valued for their inside information; their stories are always punctuated with talk of special "sources" and full of obscure information. They shy away from the laudatory commentary on US weaponry that befalls the anchors and the second string. Dan Rather practically gushed on the first night of the war about the F-15 fighter: "It's the best U.S. fighter. It's generally considered, on a worldwide basis, to be the best in the world." Kate Couric, the Today Show's new bright star and former short-timer in the Pentagon, reported on February 17 from the Pentagon that Operation Desert Storm "was virtually flawless." On February 5, Tom Brokaw opened the Nightly News saying that "America's weapons of war are performing with flying colors so far." Andrea Mitchell then described the E-8 JSTARs ground surveillance plane, a system most people nodoubt had never heard of, stating that it "has worked well in the desert." The Pentagon correspondents have stayed away from making too many predictions -- Clever little environmental geeks might look back and see what they said. Besides, that's what all the "consultants" are paid to do. Nonetheless, they can't always resist, though they should. For example, Fred Francis, on the firstnight of the war, said that the war plan was "evolving a lot slower than we anticipated that it would." In all fairness, the most accurate reporting has comefrom Dave Martin at CBS. He provided a particularly sober assessment on 22 January that the air campaign would take weeks before a ground offensive could be ordered: "Pentagon officials say the major success so far has been the small number of aircraft lost. But they acknowledge not everything is going according to plan. In at least one instance, the wrong building was hit. And there is disappointment with the number of bridges destroyed. Also this search for Iraq's SCUD missile launchers has turned into what one source called a, quote, very serious diversion." Bob Zelnick's Military "AWACs is certainly one," incorrectly referring to the airborne radar plane as an electronic warfare plane, January 16. "Pentagon officials privately say cluster bombs and cruise missiles have rendered 80 percent of Iraq's combat aircraft useless,...," although a few days later the Pentagon reported officially that only a handful of planes had been destroyed, January 17. "...the U.S. has a much better chance that the Israelis of finding them [SCUD missiles] because the U.S. night-vision equipment is much better and their ability to search armed by escorts is also superior to the Israelis'," falsely reporting supposed US advantages over Israel (who had bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 using US supplied weapons, the very same ones in Saudi Arabia), January 18. "[While the US] does have radar-imaging and infrared equipment not affected by clouds, these systems are not as clear and take longer to interpret," explaining the effects of weather on the US assessment of the bombing, yet wrong about both accuracy and timing, January 21. "Pentagon officials say...the [Iraqi Republican Guards have been pinned down, preventing them from launching an offensive before the U.S. is ready," launching an attack?, January 22. "Now Iraq is operating from only five of its more than 50 air facilities,"after the Pentagon reported that activity had been seen at five airfields the day before, not that only five were operable, January 23. "Pentagon officials privately express concern that the stock of advanced Patriot missiles is dangerously low," (the Pentagon said phooey), January 25. "Pentagon sources say that military and intelligence officials disagree about the need to extend the bombing campaign and delay the ground offensive in order to reduce the fighting condition of Iraqi forces enough to lower U.S. casualties substantially," (no such controversy exists), February 5. Carpet Bombing Watch Brokaw: "Is it likely that we'll hear of some carpet bombing before too long?..." Francis: "That's part of the overall war plan, that they would be carpet-bombed at some point. But I don't think that would happen in the initial stages of combat." January 16. "B-52s carrying 100,000 pounds of bombs apiece took buildings and carpet-bombed Iraqi armored units in Kuwait..." Kate Couric contradicting Fred on NBC, January 17 "the campaign to liberate Kuwait has entered a new and bloodier phase, as the U.S. begins carpet-bombing Iraqi troops." Dave Martin, January 19, first reporting carpet bombing. "B-52s perform area carpet-bombing against troops and supply concentrations, as well as refueling centers." Bob Zelnick, January 20, a carpet bombing Johnny come lately. "B-52s flew round-the-clock raids on Iraq's elite tank divisions today. One source said carpet-bombing," explosives saturating several-square-mile areas,was expected to be very effective." Fred Francis, January 22, finally getting with the program. Good Intelligence "The Iraqi government was reported around midday today to be trying to move chemical weapons within reach of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia." (It didn't) Dan Rather, January 16. "A senior Air Force commander here predicted that the air war, the establishing (sic) superiority in the air would take the Air Force approximately two days." (It didn't) Bob Simon, January 16. "...you can't fly 2000 sorties when you begin the attack at 7:00 P.M. Eastern Time. Three's just not enough hours in the black night to do that." (We did)Fred Francis, January 16. "military leaders tell NBC News tonight that Iraq may, may have been preparing a backdoor attack against the U.S. fleet in the Persian Gulf with Iran's complicity." (They didn't) Fred Francis, January 20. "While the air war is expected to continue for at least another week, U.S. troops, tens of thousands of them, moved closer to the Kuwaiti border, poised for a ground attack." (Still waiting) Fred Francis, January 20. "Pentagon officials say that Saddam may launch another ground attack into Saudi Arabia sometime in the next 48 hours." (They didn't) Fred Francis, 31 January. Really Good Intelligence: "...if one finds an important target that has a key communications node, a key area where communications come together, and it happens to be in an area where civilians live, it would still be important, I believe, for the United States to take that out." Air Force General Michael Dugan, CBS Consultant, January 16. Could you explain that again, Fred? "...to be successful, they have to take out the leader of the country because, especially in this case, this man's word is law. And if they have to ask for surrender, they want to ask from this man. Or if he's not there, they hope the country just sort of crumbles, the military leadership crumbles around him." Fred Francis, January 16 (answering a question from Brokaw on whether the US was targeting Saddam Hussein). "...before a great and bloody land battle, U.S. forces are trying to talk the Iraqis into surrendering." January 20. "One Administration concern is that Libya might attack Israel, and in thatway try to break apart the coalition. The [US aircraft carrier] Forrestal could be in the way of that attack." January 20. TALK FROM THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE RADIO DIAL Often referred to as one of America's last truly democratic institutions, talk radio serves as a sort of a national village green where political ideas from the left, right, and center canbe exchanged. But for the last twenty years, there are increasing indications that business and political pressures have surrounded the village green with "Keep Right" signs. That evidence came home to Columbus, OH talk show host Jim Bleikamp on thewar's opening day. Bleikamp, a liberal weeknight talk host on WTVN Radio, interviewed local Congressman John Kasich on Jan. 16. An early supporter of continued sanctions against Iraq, Kasich switched to a pro-war stance before the 16th.Bleikamp's questioning on the Congressman's switch prompted station managementto suspend him for one day. Bleikamp resigned in protest, admitting that he hadmade a "mildly sarcastic" remark to Kasich, but insisted that he "acted accordingly." Bleikamp's resignation-in-protest is at least the second war- related lossof a liberal media voice. Columnist Warren Hinckle, whose discipline by the SanFrancisco Examiner was reported in PW 3, has been ordered to take a "vacation" by the paper. But Bleikamp noted that it's not likely that more liberal commercial talkshow hosts will be lost. "There aren't many left-of-center talkshow hosts left in the country," he said. Indeed, liberal hosts like Mike Malloy of Atlanta's WSB and Gloria Kennedyof WALE in Providence have disappeared in recent years, replaced either by network programming or more politically neutral local hosts. National talk radio's hottest commodity, Rush Limbaugh, is a conservative whose bombastic style makes Morton Downey, Jr. look like Dick Cavett. Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network has also gotten into the act, stringing together a struggling three-station network in Washington, Charlotte, NC and Oklahoma City. Jim Ackerman, a former radio talker in West Palm Beach, FL and St. Louis, agreed that liberal talkshow hosts are a vanishing species. "A couple of decadesago, you'd be hard pressed to find a conservative on talk radio, but now it's reversed. I've been asked at various stations to better represent the "common man's point of view." Ackerman left talkshow hosting two years ago, and now works for Metro Traffic Control in South Florida. Despite acknowledging strong political pressure for his viewpoints, Ackerman said that his decision to leave was his own. "At one station, shortly after the election of Reagan, I was pointing out the shortcomings of Reagan Administration policy," said Ackerman. "I was asked flat out by the Program Director "'Can't you say something nice about the President?'" "Most program directors are trying to balance a very tight line. It's really hard to say (if the balance is changing). It's hard to say how much is political, how much is from sponsors," continued Ackerman. "It's a line that moves a lot. A lot of talkshow hosts, for political survival, take a more conservative position. I recall one host saying, "'If I blurted out my real feelings, I'd be in trouble.'" Pat Aufderheide, a writer and media expert with the Benton Foundation, said that talk radio's conservative domination is merely a sign of the times. "Talk radio works on opinion, not neutrality." Both Ackerman and Bleikamp said that radio program directors are walking atightrope between the commercial concerns of running a profitable radio station and representing a wide range of opinions. "The commercial radio industry tries very hard to mirror the public mood, and the country is pretty conservative -- more so with the war," said Bleikamp. But Bleikamp expressed discomfort with talk radio's blurred line between journalism and commerce. "There is a very serious conservative bias in American talk radio," he said. "People who are concerned about fairness in journalism should be concerned about this." A MERCENARY MAG AT THE FRONT: "Over the last three days the local tv networks in Dhahran have discontinued the continual, around-the-clock news coverageof the war and started playing reruns of old American sitcoms. CNN, the prime source of news in this area, has been reduced to late night and early morning coverage. This may be due to reports that local merchants are having difficulty getting their employees to report to work. One Saudi firm opted to imprison several employees who refused to come to work. But it also may be that something isup." (Soldier of Fortune Magazine correspondent Steve Elswick in Dhahran, 1/22.) WITHHOLDING INFORMATION THAT WOULD DAMAGE SECURITY: "Q: Does General Schwarzkopf ..... weigh 250 pounds? A: General Schwarzkopf is a big man, but regulations prohibit the disclosure of his weight." (Walter Scott's Personality Parade, Parade Mag., 2/10) NEWSWEEK TAKES A DIFFERENT LOOK AT BLINKING: PW3 cited a Time Magazine report suggesting that Saddam Hussein's rapid blinking during his CNN interview (40 blinks per minute) was a sign of his imminent mental breakdown. The 2/18 Newsweek replied with its own version of what constitutes sanity. Newsweek cited a Boston College researcher who, while watching the same CNN interview, clocked Saddam at a dizzying 113 blinks. Newsweek also reported President Bush's top speed at 69 B/pM. WE'RE NOT MAKING THIS UP: The BBC sent a memo to 37 local radio stations suggesting "caution" in airing these and other songs during wartime: "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot me Down) by Cher; "Give Peace a Chance" and "Imagine" by John Lennon; "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins; "Atomic" by Blondie; "Love is a Battlefield" by Pat Benatar; and the Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian." (Entertainment Weekly, 2/8). The controversy over Pentagon press restrictions is scheduled to move to Capitol Hill on 2/20. The Senate Government Affairs Committee will hear from witnesses including former Most Trusted Man in America Walter Cronkite; Sydney Schanberg, a Pulitzer winner, columnist, and plaintiff in the suit challenging Pentagon restrictions; Pentagon flack Pete Williams; veteran war correspondent Malcolm Browne of the New York Times; war pundit Harry Summers; and former Vietnam-era Saigon Embassy flack Barry Zorthian. THEOLOGICAL OBSERVATION OF THE WEEK: Christopher Hitchens greeted his CNN debate opponent Charlton Heston on 2/5 by declaring "It's not every day one gets to debate the Middle East with Moses himself." (Washington Times, 2/8). NEXT WEEK: More Civilian Pundits; Pre-August Media views of Iraq. Writtenby Andrew Davis, Jeanne Whalen, Bill Arkin, Peter Dykstra, and Julie Brenegar. End of text from cdp:mideast.media Source: Peacenet Via New York Transfer News 718-448-2358, 718-448-2683 --- [ This file has travelled through the Socialism OnLine! BBS at +1-203-274-4639, 24 hours, 300-9600 bps HST/MNP/V42bis, on its way to you, the reader of this file. Please share any information you have about "big brother." Venceremos! ]


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