In times past, journalists have complained that Presidents have been too unavailable to take questions from the press. This year, TV broadcast networks have had the opposite complaint—that President Obama’s prime-time addresses have too frequently cut into valuable airtime, costing millions in unrecoverable advertising revenue.
This Wednesday, Obama will give a press conference, marking 100 days in office, at 8 p.m. E.T. But Fox network has become the first to refuse to carry it, opting instead to air Lie to Me as scheduled. Fox News—and the other broadcast and cable news networks—still plan to carry the conference.
Given Fox’s siblinghood with Fox News—of Sean Hannity and tea-parties fame—I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a partisan sparring point. But I should note that, while it’s the first time a broadcaster has passed on an Obama press conference, networks have refused to air Presidential pressers before, under Clinton and both Bushes.
It will if nothing else be an interesting test, both of the drawing power of the President and of network TV. Will Lie to Me get an uptick in viewers as a result, or in an era with so many cable options, does one more channel airing something other than a press conference make little difference? As for Obama, it spells out the importance of making sure his TV appearances are spread-out and compelling enough to have impact: if he maintains his ratings, the numbers will speak loudly, and if they drop precipitously, the other networks may want to join Fox next time.
Though by then, we may be in summer rerun season. Couldn’t the President see fit to pre-empt America’s Got Talent?