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Monday, September 11, 2006

Another day, another network 


Followup. If you had nothing better to do with your life over the weekend, you may have read this at the end of my Saturday blog post:


I'll say why I'm not jumping up and down and saying that georgia10 is a Stalinist fascist totalitarian idiot. Yes, georgia10 is advocating self-censorship of items critical of Clinton. But what would happen if the shoe were on the other foot? Let's say that a major media outlet aired a show critical of President George W. Bush? Would Republicans be praising the major media outlet for its contributions to the public discourse? I don't think so.


Back to a comment made in Annika's blog:


Maybe it's me and I'm not remembering this correctly because I drink a lot, but didn't the GOP make the very same noises not too very long ago about a TV movie about President Reagan?

Posted by: skippystalin on Sep. 9, 2006



Now skippystalin is apparently alleging that the Republican Party pressured a TV network to change a TV show, in the same way that the Democratic Party is pressuing a TV network to change a TV show. But we know that the Grand Old Party would never do something like that. No sirree.

Uh...


A four-hour miniseries on Ronald and Nancy Reagan has created a firestorm for CBS as Republican loyalists marshaled a campaign to soften the TV movie's depiction of the former president....

In the past two weeks, CBS has made 18 changes to the completed film, enraging its producers, says a person knowledgeable about the production.

Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie sent CBS a letter Friday requesting that The Reagans be reviewed for "historical accuracy" by Reagan intimates. Barring that, he asked the network to insert a disclaimer "crawl" every 10 minutes during the film that describes it as fictional.

Newsweek reports today that CBS is considering dumping the movie on its sibling pay channel Showtime, which suggests that the furor has sent advertisers fleeing.



So what happened?


[William] Bennett also said that conservatives who have embraced the film "now have to be consistent," noting: "When The Reagans, that show about the Reagans, CBS show, came out, it had all sorts of distortions and misstatements. Conservatives went crazy and had it relegated somewhere -- I don't know. It never appeared on CBS." As Media Matters for America has noted, The Reagans was originally slated to appear on CBS in November 2003 but aired instead on Showtime, a premium cable channel owned by CBS' parent, Viacom, after pressure from conservatives over its alleged inaccuracies.


Another look back:


The muted response by the media to ABC's decision to air The Path to 9/11 -- a miniseries about events leading up to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- stands in stark contrast to the reception the media gave another highly touted political miniseries: CBS' 2003 biopic The Reagans. While The Path to 9/11 appears to contain outright falsehoods and distortions, The Reagans generated a huge amount of news coverage, and was ultimately pulled from the network's schedule, impelled by conservative outrage over its portrayal of President Ronald Reagan, which they claimed was unfair.

A two-part series scheduled to air November 16 and 18, 2003 -- right in the middle of November sweeps -- The Reagans starred James Brolin and Judy Davis as Ronald and Nancy Reagan. However, about a month before the broadcast, portions of the leaked draft script were published by the Drudge Report website and The New York Times. Subsequently, the miniseries sparked a furor among conservatives, who saw the movie as presenting an unbalanced portrait of the Reagans.

While CBS' controversial decision to pull the show was hailed by the right as a victory of the conservative grassroots over the liberal mainstream media, in fact it is was the mainstream media itself that precipitated the furor. On October 21, 2003, The New York Times ran a 1,600-word article on the front page of its Arts section about the CBS miniseries and the concern among Reagan supporters about the movie's allegedly liberal tilt. Although the Drudge Report had reported on the CBS movie a day earlier, Drudge acknowledged in a November 3, 2003, interview on MSNBC's Scarborough Country, "The New York Times, in all fairness, was the first one to go out ahead of it."

In the weeks that followed, The Reagans -- and the conservative uproar over it -- was headline news. Though conservative bloggers and advocacy groups fed the controversy, it was the mainstream media -- particularly the New York Times -- that made it a national story. After the Times' October 21 piece, the issue became, in the word used by many articles, a "firestorm," garnering stories in dozens of newspapers and both broadcast and cable television....

The heavy coverage of The Reagans, fueled by right-wing grassroots activity but validated by mainstream media attention, had its effect....[O]n November 4, almost two weeks before the miniseries was scheduled to air, the network announced that it was canceling The Reagans because "it does not present a balanced portrayal of the Reagans for CBS and its audience." Instead, the network moved the production to premium-cable network Showtime, like CBS a division of Viacom....

The show eventually aired on Showtime as a three-hour movie on November 30, 2003, followed by a discussion titled, "Controversy: The Reagans," in which the film was analyzed by a panel including conservative activist Linda Chavez, former Reagan aide Martin Anderson, liberal activist Hilary Rosen, Carl Anthony (one of the film's producers), television journalist Marvin Kalb, and Reagan biographer Lou Cannon....

The contrast with the case of The Path to 9/11 seems obvious. In the film about terrorism, the filmmakers reportedly have invented events -- such as the fantasy that at one point a CIA agent and a group of Afghani tribesmen had a house where Osama bin Laden was staying surrounded but were called off by Clinton officials -- that no one, not even the Bush administration's defenders, claims to have occurred.

This is not the first time that the Disney corporation, which owns ABC, has been involved in a controversy over a political film. In 2004, the corporation ordered its subsidiary Miramax not to distribute Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11. As Time magazine reported at the time, "Moore says that his lawyer was told by Disney CEO Michael Eisner that distributing it would harm the company's negotiations for favorable treatment for its Florida theme parks from that state's governor, one Jeb Bush."



In response to a Reuters article that also mentions The Reagans, darcdante (one of my close personal MySpace friends) says the following:


Is this really what our electorate should be spending their time on? How much can you really trusts a government that attempts to get any show pulled which is critical of the way they've handled things? My answer is not too much. I've been critical of the government for awhile now, and this is simply another knot in the lace. Our government has tangled itself up so much in treachery, lies, and bad dealings that I wonder if America will ever recover her image.


From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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