November 02, 2015

Give me thirty seconds and I’ll give you 250,000 reasons why Becky Quick should never, ever, moderate another Republican presidential debate.

I didn’t just make that number up. CNBC charged advertisers up to $250,000.00 for a thirty second ad during last weeks’ debate. CNBC’s chairman described the contest as “a good investment for the network.”

Now, thanks to Ms. Quick and her co-moderators John Harwood and Carl Quintanilla, that Golden Goose has been burnt to ashes. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus pulled the GOP out of an NBC debate scheduled for February 26. As reported by the Times: “The move illustrated the party’s distrust of the mainstream media, its leading candidates’ preoccupation with rebelling against power, and the tactical wager that Republicans can outmaneuver television networks dependent on record-breaking ratings from this year’s debates.”

Record breaking ratings mean healthy ad sales. Donald Trump, corporate America salutes you.

Back in May the GOP was struggling with the decision of how to determine which candidates would get into the debates, amidst talk of simply ceding control to Fox News, host of the first contest. On May 14, Priebus told the Times that ''Obviously, our media partners are going to have a big say in the process, as well as our party.'' At the time I marveled at the term “partner” especially as it applied to Fox – is a partner supposed to ask tough questions? (Fox did).

On August 3 New York Magazine reported that Fox would decide on debate participants using five polls from among those produced by Monmouth University, Quinnipiac University, NBC News/Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, CBS/New York Times, and Fox News. Since, as Tom Rosenstiel of the American Press Institute once wrote “Polls are a form of marketing for news organizations” (he might have added universities) the circularity of the corporate needs of media conglomerates and the political parties is inescapable. Partners, indeed.

By punishing NBC Chairman Priebus has sent a clear message that corporate media chieftains projecting $250,000.00 per half a minute revenues had better keep their moderators on a short leash. Senator Ted Cruz reportedly told a conservative audience that talk radio icons Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh should be called on to moderate.

It makes sense – they wouldn’t upset the candidates, and they’d be box office. Win win. It’s what a good partnership is all about.

Republican Party, Reince Priebus

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