Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Plight Of CBS Network: Anti Justice For Meredith Is Increasingly Bad Business

Posted by Peter Quennell

[above: billionaire Sumner Redstone, largest CBS stockholder and big loser]

For the record TJMK, our not-for-profit tribute to Meredith, has been one of the fastest-growing new websites in the world.

At 1,669,013 world-wide now (out of about 7 million) it has more than twice the readership of any other site on the case except pro-Meredith PMF.

But it is less easy being an American television network in this day and age.

In the last three months of 2008, broadcast networks lost nearly three million viewers, or about 7 percent of their total audience. Overall television viewing is up, however, and some big cable networks, like USA and TNT, are attracting new viewers.

Broadcast networks still bring in the largest audiences, but now they are facing a deep advertising recession that is hitting both the networks and their local stations.

That sorta explains why over two years the stock of CBS which broadcast last Saturday’s trashy report has really tanked. 

While the US stockmarket as a whole is down less than 40 percent, CBS stock is now down by MORE THAN 80 PERCENT.

Which may help to explain why CEO Leslie Moonves (image at bottom here) is now running scared for his job.

CBS has a classy and successful lineup among the evening drama shows. But its evening news broadcast (with Katie Couric) is relentlessly at third place, and its prestigious “60 Minutes” expose franchise has seen better days.

And CBS’s tabloid “48 Hours” expose franchise, which broadcast the trashy “Amanda Knox Show” last saturday night at 10, is really down there in the bargain basement.

The “48 Hours” report rarely breaks into the top 20 among CBS’s own shows And it rarely breaks into the top 100 among all US television shows - it was 101 overall last year.

CBS seem to have tried very hard to promote its “48 Hours” on the Perugia case. But there’s zero buzz in the US and, as our poster Nicki reported from Italy, the “48 Hours” was just a tiresome yawn there.

So far, I haven’t seen any report of the scandalous 48 Hours show on this side, and this indifference speaks volumes to me”¦ In the collective imagination, the FOA PR machine has done a great job in representing America at its lowest: arrogant, xenophobic and unreasonable.

Evidently the Italians have got past indignation and are bored of being lectured about the serious flaws of their judicial system and their third-world-country incompetence level. They’ve got more important thing to worry about, like the recent earthquake and the economic crisis to name a few.

So, let the Perugia trial take its course, and the guilty be sentenced to the maximum penalty. This is what the general feeling is on this side of the ocean.

Viewers of the trashy “48 Hours” were few in the US, probably below 4 million. And by the look of the advertising that the show carried, they were mainly elderly and of lower income.

Very nice people of course, but not really the demographic the networks would now die for.

In strong contrast, the prestigious NBC Dateline expose franchise did a wonderful job of explaining the case while remaining highly objective.

  • Meredith’s memory was respected by Dateline, rather than repeatedly trashed with the use of very sick images
  • There was no one-note Captain Ahab on a manic vendetta, obviously way out of his depth on the actual evidence
  • There was no spurious recreation of what a witness heard that got the basic facts about her very seriously wrong.
  • There was no piling on to Italy and all things Italian - and some real live Italians were interviewed for the piece.

And guess what? The audience for NBC’s Dateline was MORE THAN TWICE AS LARGE as CBS’s. And a lot more upscale and sought-after.

NBC very deservedly came out ahead on the heavy investment in its painstaking report. And NBC certainly did not have to get down into the gutter to achieve it.

Learn something from this please, CBS, before you become a dinosaur in the tar-sands.

There is no longer a profit to be made out of trashing poor Meredith.

[above: Leslie Moonves, the beleagured CEO of the CBS network]

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Thanks, Pete, for this timely piece on the CBS 48 Hours show. It sounds like CBS is desperate for an audience, which explains the tabloid tone of its two treatments of this case. Fortunately, that approach seems to have backfired.

Most viewers are simply more intelligent the CBS gives them credit for being. It used to be that no one ever lost money underestimating the average person’s intelligence; in the complex and content-rich information age this may no longer be true. In other words, the Lowest Common Denominator approach is no longer sustainable.

Posted by Skeptical Bystander on 04/15/09 at 06:28 PM | #

We shouldn’t expect CBS to produce a decent documentary about the Meredith Kercher case as long as the Three Stooges - Doug Longhini, Peter Van Sant and Paul Ciolino - are involved. The last CBS documentary about the case was shockingly bad. I can’t believe that CBS actually rebroadcast Paul Ciolino’s and Peter Van Sant’s comical sound experiment that proved nothing at all.

Paul Ciolino has no expertise relevant to the case. The man is barely literate; he can’t even conjugate simple verbs. He tries to convince the television audience he’s right by aggressively stating his opinions. However, this counts for nothing when he gets basic facts wrong, such as maintaining that Amanda Knox didn’t know Rudy Guede. 

Has Peter Van Sant actually been following the trial in Perugia? He was repeating myths that have been completely debunked e.g. Amanda Knox was interrogated all night for 14 hours without food or water and she was hit by one of the police officers. Several witnesses have testifed under oath that this not true.

Peter Van Sant is making a huge mistake by believing Amanda Knox, who is a compulsive liar and has admitted that she lied to Judge Paolo Micheli. Numerous witnesses: the postal police, officers from the Perugia Flying Squad, the Murder Squad, the Narcotics Squad, three interpreters, Meredith’s English friends and the Italian housemates, have all flatly contradicted Amanda Knox’s claims. Does Peter Van Sant really think ALL these witnesses are lying and Amanda Knox is telling the truth?

The NBC documentary covered the case objectively and featured highly-respected consultants like Clint Van Zandt, the former FBI profiler and evidence analyst, and Theodore Simon, the defence lawyer for Americans in foreign trouble. I’m genuinely baffled why CBS couldn’t follow NBC’s template on how to produce a decent documentary about the case.

Posted by The Machine on 04/15/09 at 06:30 PM | #

I’ve just downloaded and watched the CBS show. Rather ironic that it blames tabloid sensationalism in part for Knox’s predicament when the whole show is TV tabloidism: fact light and interested in ersatz shock and outrage. They’re not even very good at it. No meat on the bones of the conspiracy / bonkers prosecutor theory and just a weak claim that the trial cannot be fair. A show to induce narcolepcy.zzzzzz

Posted by Faustus on 04/15/09 at 06:48 PM | #


Thanks for this comprehensive piece on CBS. Stock down 80 percent?  Peter Van Sant’s “Amanda Knox Show” certainly won’t impress the shareholders!

I’ll admit, I’ve watched many 48 Hours programs - an option on a dull Saturday night after the kids are asleep.

However, this episode was remarkably different.  As in “something’s amiss here” different.  How many times did they show Meredith and the crime scene?  Horrific.  Supportive of someone’s innocence while on trial for murder?  Absolutely. Ignorance?  No doubt.  I’ve never seen anything like this prevaricated reporting - dare I say WORSE than the worst tabloid?  Oh, and Paul Ciolino?  I can hardly comprehend and understand him when he speaks!

Never again 48 Hours.  You’ve stooped too low and I’d rather swat flies than dial into CBS.

I’ll stick with Chris Hanson, Keith Morrison etc. over at DATELINE NBC! 😊

Posted by Tara on 04/15/09 at 07:29 PM | #

Its pitiful CBS chose to disregard portraying Knox as the circus entertaining freak she is.  The entire world knows her image intimately yet we see not one smiling or smirking grin.  Why?  It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure that one out and it’s time to schedule three lobotomies. Until then, for -

Peter Van Can’t-report-er-accurately I cast the Babbling Curse.  The Babbling Curse is not fully understood but it is presumed to cause a person to babble whenever they try to speak.

Doug Longhini will be confused by the Jelly-Brain Jinx since it affects the target’s mental processes.

And for the ever loser clown,  Paul Ciolino I cast the “Evanesco” vanishing spell. 
Pack up that stinky old trunk of tricks and get out of town with the rest of the FOAK circus, dude.

Karma.  Bring it.

Posted by Professor Snape on 04/15/09 at 08:16 PM | #

Thank you Pete for a very informative post. It’s sad to see CBS must resort to tabloid-style sensationalism in order to capture audience. I’ve been a resident of the EU for over twenty years and I remember “60 Minutes” was one of my favorite shows: a good example of classy and well researched reporting, sorry to learn that it has seen better days.

CBS, you’re not going to get more audience share by broacasting tabloid-style programs, some honest and well- researched journalism would do much better. I am very disappointed.

Posted by Nicki on 04/15/09 at 08:24 PM | #

...And for our real hero, Fast Pete, my wand presents to you a bouquet of flowers when as speak the Orchideous Charm. 
Here goes, “ORCHIDEOUS!”
Mahalo for bringing us the True Facts.

Posted by Professor Snape on 04/15/09 at 08:28 PM | #
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