Yesterday, August 24, 2010, this story headlined in Politico:
Last week, “CBS Evening News” tied the all-time ratings low set last summer for a network evening news broadcast, TV Newser reports. An average of 4.89 million total viewers tuned into CBS for evening news last week, behind 6.51 million for ABC and 7.42 million for NBC.
On October 16, 2006 — almost four years ago — I noted this about Katie Couric’s takeover of the CBS anchor chair. After seeing her ratings briefly skyrocket with an appearance from Rush Limbaugh in a “free speech” segment, Couric’s ratings were almost immediately headed south. I wrote:
CBS and Ms. Couric’s failure illustrates a point that was easily predictable before Katie even sat down in the anchor chair. Putting Rush Limbaugh on CBS air in a “free speech” segment certainly pumped Couric’s ratings for a moment. But conservatives — Reagan were he here and surely Limbaugh himself — realized exactly what the problem was that lie ahead. CBS tried to demonstrate that they were free of liberal bias by giving ol’ Rush a few seconds of airtime. What they had no intention of doing was eliminating the liberal bias of the show’s writers, producers and reporters, much less of Ms. Couric herself. Result? The new boss is the same as the old boss. The philosophical presentation of the new CBS News hasn’t changed a whit from the days when Dan or Walter or Bill Moyers looked somberly into the lens to insist they were telling the news “the way it was.” Still, there had to be a terrifying “ping” when CBS execs realized that Rush Limbaugh brought higher ratings to CBS News than Dan Rather ever could. Could — would — that ever happen? Would they have the guts to make “America’s anchorman” the CBS anchorman? The people in charge of CBS News would sooner crunch down on a cyanide tablet before naming Rush Limbaugh or any other conservative the anchor and managing editor of their show. Even if it meant winning the ratings for the next century. Fair and balanced is not now or ever in the cards at CBS, and Ms. Couric’s ratings have tumbled accordingly. Besides, why would Rush Limbaugh want a demotion?
It is now 2010. “The Rush Limbaugh Show“ – featuring Rush as “America’s real anchorman” – cruises along in ratings heaven. Its host not that long ago signed a new contract for a reported $400 million over 8 years. And Couric’s CBS Evening News is in the sad state reported yesterday by Politico.
Will the CBS folks learn anything from this umpteenth lesson in media?