Just moments after the White House's tweet last Friday announcing President Obama's prime-time press conference on Wednesday to discuss health care reform, media industry speculation began swirling over which broadcast networks would refuse to carry the presidential presser, the way Fox walked away from an Obama press conference in April.
The chatter represented the continuation of an unprecedented pity party television executives have been throwing themselves since Obama was inaugurated and began regularly communicating with the American people through network television. Bellyaching endlessly about lost viewers that Obama's prime-time press conferences have caused (American Idol got bumped!) and complaining contemptuously about advertising revenues that the commercial-free Q&A were eating up, network suits have been egged on by media reporters.
The reasons network execs have cited while moaning about airing Obama's press conferences have been bogus, especially the claim about lost advertising revenue. But as broadcast executives huddle to decide whether to grant the president access to the airwaves on Wednesday, which, incidentally, belong to the public and which networks use for free, it's important to point out why there's no plausible reason this time around for any of the networks to refuse to air the press conference.
And here's why: Pretty much nobody is watching the networks' prime-time programming this summer anyway.
Meaning, Obama's press conference isn't going to cause havoc with network schedules the way executives claimed previous prime-time White House events did in the winter and spring. The press conference is not going to cost the broadcast outlets big lost ratings for the simple reason that this is "The Summer People Stopped Watching Network TV," as Gawker recently dubbed it. The networks have so few viewers tuning in this summer that, if anything, Obama's presence might actually boost the overnight Nielsen numbers.
Read the entire Media Matters column here.