NBC's current headache over its Hillary Clinton miniseries shows some of the downsides of the complex corporate synergy that dominates today's news business.
When he appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Thursday, RNC chair Reince Priebus--who has promised to ban NBC from Republican debates if it goes ahead with the miniseries--pointed out that NBC was the same place where he watched news and entertainment and football.
He called the "firewall" between news and entertainment that the network's Chuck Todd had brought up earlier a "distinction without a difference." Host Mika Brzezinski fought back, saying that viewers can easily tell the difference between news and entertainment.
The problem for Brzezinski is that her network is constantly telling viewers that the news side and the entertainment side are all part of one happy corporate family.
That may or may not be so, but it's also an accepted part of the news industry that a network's news division will plug upcoming projects that have been developed for its entertainment division. "Today," for instance, is constantly interviewing stars of upcoming shows on NBC or Bravo or USA, or people from films made by Universal--all of whom reside in the same corporate warehouse.
The same goes for "Good Morning America," which practically turns itself into an appendage of "Dancing With The Stars" when that show is on, or even for "CBS This Morning," which always has time for one of that network's stars.
Then there are the appearances by news anchors on late night shows or sitcoms or even, in Brian Williams' case, "Saturday Night Live." Even if there's no huge ethical quandary, the clear signal is that everyone is employed by the same people, and is part of the same team.
Cable news is hardly immune to this: remember when MSNBC's Chris Matthews interviewed Angelica Huston about NBC's "Smash" for no apparent reason at all?
If it's a given that NBC and NBC News, and all the other networks, are so constantly joining forces on air, viewers could be forgiven for thinking that they were connected in other ways too -- no matter how false that assumption might be.