Not a single major network will air Barack Obama’s major announcement on immigration tonight since it’s November sweeps and Barack Obama is not nearly as interesting to watch as whatever passes for primetime programming in a sweeps month. And the White House has taken to whining to DC reporters that it’s simply not fair.
“In 2006, Bush gave a 17 minute speech that was televised by all three networks that was about deploying 6000 national guard troops to the border. Obama is making a 10 minute speech that will have a vastly greater impact on the issue. And none of the networks are doing it. We can’t believe they were aggrieved that we announced this on Facebook,” a senior administration official told POLITICO.
When the president wants to make a primetime address, White House officials will reach out to the big networks like ABC, NBC, and CBS, to gauge whether they would consider running the speech live before putting in a formal request for airtime.
But on Wednesday morning, with plans underway for a Thursday night address on Obama’s plans to issue executive actions on some of the most sweeping immigration reform in decades, those feelers came back with a negative report. None of the major networks wanted to take time away from their primetime programming for Obama’s 8p.m. speech. So the administration did not send out a formal request to the networks and took to Facebook to publicize the speech with a special video message from Obama along with a link to the livestream.
Part of the problem might have been that the White House didn’t specifically request the prime time real estate from the networks because they assumed the networks would comply given the “gravity” of the President’s remarks of immigration (according to Nancy Pelosi, it’s basically the Emancipation Proclamation), and because it’s generally understood that cable networks will carry a primetime Presidential address. Tonight, though, President Obama is running up against Grey’s Anatomy, Bones and The Big Bang Theory, so he’s just going to have to rely on the respective networks media arms to carry his message to the masses, media arms that are still kind of angry that the President sidestepped the networks to announce his plan to address the nation on Facebook.
Another part of the problem may also be that networks see the address as overtly political and aren’t jumping at the chance to become partisan propaganda arms. What the White House spokesperson who complained to POLITICO failed to note was that Bush’s announcement was of a bipartisan agreement to address immigration in a productive way, not a one-man crusade against the opposing party.
BROADCAST NETS won’t carry the address. A network insider tells Playbook: “There was agreement among the broadcast networks that this was overtly political. The White House has tried to make a comparison to a time that all the networks carried President Bush in prime time, also related to immigration . But that was a bipartisan announcement, and this is an overtly political move by the White House.”
They are lucky that they did manage to snag Univision and Telemundo. Univision, at least, is delaying it’s broadcast of the annual Latin Grammy Awards so that President Obama can speak to the nation. The White House can repay Univision, of course, by forcing it’s legal team to watch the Latin Grammy’s while they prepare their defense of executive action.