Fox Will Not Air President Obama's 100 Days Prime-Time News Conference
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
NEW YORK, April 27 -- Fox became the first broadcast network to turn down a request by President Obama for air time, opting to show its drama "Lie to Me" on Wednesday instead of the president's prime-time news conference.
Fox will direct viewers interested in the news conference to Fox News Channel and the Fox Business Network, which will carry it. ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC and CNBC are carrying the 8 p.m. event, on Obama's 100th day in office.
This will be Obama's third prime-time news conference as president, a schedule that has caused some grumbling among network executives. Carrying such an event costs the four broadcast networks an estimated $10 million in lost advertising revenue.
Nonetheless, with an economy in distress, two wars and now a swine-flu outbreak, the pressure on networks to agree to Obama's request as a public service is enormous.
Executives at Fox, owned by News Corp., would not comment on the decision Monday. It's not without precedent for the network: Fox didn't carry a prime-time speech by President George W. Bush in November 2001 despite a request from the White House.
"I can't imagine it was politically motivated," said Shelly Palmer, industry analyst and host of "MediaBytes," a daily show on blip.tv about technology and the media. "I'm assuming it was financially motivated."
The news conference comes at the start of a ratings "sweeps" period, when viewership is watched closely to set local advertising rates. Not only will Fox keep its advertising for the hour, it will also offer the only broadcast entertainment program, potentially giving a boost to the new series "Lie to Me," about a crime-fighting expert who can spot liars. "American Idol" follows "Lie to Me" on the schedule.
The Fox broadcast network was the most likely to have made this decision. Unlike ABC, CBS and NBC, Fox does not have its own network news division to analyze the event. Even though the broadcast network is in more homes, cable's Fox News Channel traditionally gets more viewers for its coverage of these events than the Fox broadcast network.
An executive at one of the three other broadcasters -- who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the conversations were private -- said that network's executives had expressed concern to the White House about the frequency of prime-time news conferences and the financial sacrifice being made to carry the event.
The executive said it was hoped the administration would be more flexible in working with networks to find the best times to schedule the events.