Tuesday, March 08, 2005

On Letterman, Rather, and Parent Companies

Reading about Dan Rather's retirement, I was struck by a tidbit that I previously hadn't heard about:
For the immediate future, though, Mr. Rather's departure from a job he has held since the early days of the Reagan administration has been colored by the events of the immediate past.

On Thursday, for example, he was bombarded by questions about the Guard report from an uncharacteristically aggressive David Letterman, on an entertainment program, "Late Show," that appears on Mr. Rather's own network. ("Well, that was a happening," an obviously shaken Mr. Rather said immediately after the taping.)
In media studies, much is made about the relationship between news and corporations. If news programs are just divisions of larger corporations like GE or Disney, and many of these corporations have board members who serve on boards of many other companies, how can news programs report on news regarding those companies without being influenced? Unflattering stories that cast doubt on a news programs parent company might just be left undone or given the boot by someone higher up. One would think Viacom would look to soften the fall of their old man Rather, but perhaps someone let Letterman know he should be a little rougher on Rather? After all, Viacom doesn't seem all that committd to Rather, given a comment made to the Times retold in the March 7th New Yorker
Not only did Rather find it hard to let go but his future at CBS was suddenly unclear. It was announced that he would become a full-time correspondent, primarily for "60 Minutes Wednesday," whose ratings are relatively low. Then, in January Leslie Moonves, the co-chairman of CBS and the co-president of Viacom, which owns CBS, told the Times that Rather would continue his career on the "60 Minutes Wednesday" program "provided the show continues."
Very ominous stuff.


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