Commentary

When Counterprogramming Becomes Counterproductive

The genius of Fox News founder Roger Ailes was that he understood the appetite for counterprogramming mainstream media with news and commentary for Americans.

Two decades later his successors, appear to be programming it counter to mainstream values.

In a week in which one Fox News pundit accused immigrant children separated from their parents of being child actors and a Fox News host described their detainment facilities as “camps,” nothing shed as much light on Fox News’ marginalization as Corey Lewandowski’s “womp-womp” ridiculing of an immigrant child with Down syndrome.

Interestingly, Webster defines womp as “an abrupt increase in the illumination of a television screen resulting from an abrupt increase in signal strength,” which is exactly what Lewandowski’s snide remark appears to have done.

I doubt this week’s coverage of the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy represents an existential threat for Fox News, but it was enough for many American’s to put their foot down, including some especially influential ones.

“Modern Family” producer Steve Levitan threatened to leave the studio, and “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane openly criticized Fox News and its parent, saying: “It’s business like this that makes me embarrassed to work for this company.”

My question: Why aren't advertisers embarrassed to sponsor it?

1 comment about "When Counterprogramming Becomes Counterproductive".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 21, 2018 at 9:13 a.m.

    Joe, to try to answer your question, in ancient times when advertisers developed their own variety shows, game shows, dramas, or sitcoms and brought them to the networks as fully sponsored content, this kind of behavior would never be tolerated on "their" shows. But now, most TV content is not seen as being sponsored in the old sense ---where the advertiser had total control, in conjunction with the producer, of the content--but merely as an eyeball collecting system using someone else's programming. Viewers may not understand this distinction but  the advertisers and networks certainly do.

    One might ask,, "Why don't the advertisers return to the old "sponsorship" ways and take responsibility?" The answer, with  very few exceptions, is that  advertisers have not been in the TV programming business since the early 1960s---they and their agencies  do not have the kind of staffing or funding to develop their own shows  hoping that a network would consider taking them---which is a most unlikely scenario, at best. Moreover, the costs of development and, especially of buying air time for a fully or even a dual sponsored vehicle are too high for most companies to bear, particluarly in the light of anticipated reach. Today a successful TV series might earn a 2-3% target group rating per minute---and "might" is the key word. In the old days  you were almost assured of reaching 10% per week and hit shows often peaked at 25-35%---with far greater reach levels in either case over the course of a month or a full season. Also, what do you do with all of the commercial time---run the same ads over and over again

    The real culprits in this and many similar situations in the past are the networks---as it's their content and they have control. Sadly, the networks have seen that except in a very few cases where the offence is beyond forgiveness, advertisers may leave in a panic, only to return later, so they are much less likely to crack down on offensive behavior the way most of us might like. To correct this you must put pressure on the leading networks and not rely on thousands of brands to work cooperatively to shift their ad dollars away from shows which evidence "bad" behavior. And who is going to define what's allowed and what's not? Certainly not the Feds.

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