Saturday, January 28, 2006


The entire piece will appear in the NYT Sunday edition. From Raw

Koppel: Profitability not partisanship 'shapes what you see on TV news'

01/28/2006 @ 4:16 pm

Filed by RAW STORY

The agenda of television news organizations is based on profits, as opposed to politics, and the networks are targeting the wrong demographic groups, according to an op-ed written by former ABC Nightline anchor Ted Koppel for Sunday's New York Times, RAW STORY has learned.

Coverage of foreign events, for the most part, has suffered because networks have reduced or eliminated their foreign bureaus, which can "no longer be deemed cost-effective" since "no audience is perceived to be clamoring" for it. Washington news coverage has also waned.

Instead of 18-to-34-year-old viewers, Koppel believes that the networks should focus on the audience that "may actually have an appetite for serious news:" 40-to-60-year-old baby-boomers.

In Koppel's viewpoint, even conservative Fox News operates more for the sake of "simple capitalism" than political ideology. "Calculated subjectivity has, indeed, displaced the old-fashioned goal of conveying the news dispassionately," according to Koppel.

Excerpts from "And now, a word from our demographic" by Ted Koppel:

Where to begin? Confession of the obvious seems like a reasonable starting point: I have become well known and well-off traveling the world on ABC's dime, charged only with ensuring that our viewers be well informed about important issues. For the better part of those 42 years, this arrangement worked to our mutual benefit and satisfaction. At the same time, I cannot help but see that the industry in which I have spent my entire adult life is in decline and in distress.

...Fox has succeeded financially because it tapped into a deep, rich vein of unfulfilled yearning among conservative American television viewers, but it created programming to satisfy the market, not the other way around. CNN, meanwhile, finds itself largely outmaneuvered, unwilling to accept the label of liberal alternative, experimenting instead with a form of journalism that stresses empathy over detachment.

If the network news divisions cannot be convinced that their future depends on attracting all demographic groups, then perhaps, at least, they can be persuaded to aim for the largest single demographic with the most disposable income -- one that may actually have an appetite for serious news. That would seem like a no-brainer. It's regrettable, perhaps, that only money and the inclination to spend it will ultimately determine the face of television news, but, as a distinguished colleague of mine used to say: "That's the way it is."


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