Like many “Niner Faithful”, I was very upset Sunday night when NBC preempted the broadcast of the game in order to cover President Obama’s speech concerning the tragedy on Newtown Connecticut where 26 people (mostly children) were murdered by a crazed gunman.
At the party I attended to watch the game, President Obama was widely condemned for his timing of the speech. One fan said “Why not have the President talk prior to the game or at half time instead of during the action?” While I tended to agree with my friends outrage which resulted in us not viewing the 49ers first touchdown, I quickly came to my senses.
It soon occurred to me why blame Obama when it was NBC-Comcast’s decision to interrupt the game for the President’s speech. What might have gone into their thinking on this matter? Since the shootings were Friday and had been covered in depth for the next 48 hours, they hardly qualified as breaking news. For that matter the contents of the President’s speech was to console the country, which did not exactly qualify as a national emergency.
I would have prefered that instead of denying football fans their viewing pleasure of the 49er-Patriots game, that the network advise viewers that the President was then speaking and they could watch his speech live on CNBC and other cable outlets. This would have allowed viewers a choice of which event they would have prefered to watch.
It was President Obama’s decision of when to give his address to the nation. One would think a man of his responsibility should not have to consider the ramifications of interrupting the Sunday Night viewing pleasure of the nation. While I am a die-hard “Niner Faithful”. there are others who think Pawn Stars, the Iron Chef, or the Next Super Model shows are just as important as a football game broadcast.
Since we are going in a “Don’t Shoot the Piano Player” direction, we might ask what was the decision making which went into NBC’s decision to interrupt the football game for what amounted to the President’s sermon to the nation. Obviously, the network thought this was more important than Eric Crabtree’s reception for the game’s first touchdown.
There are those who thought the reason NBC put on the President instead of gridiron action was because the murders in Connecticut provided an opportunity to make a plea to the nation to enact gun control. I will not disagree with this assessment although President did not mention restricting the distribution of firearms during his presentation. The closest he came to doing this was stating, “we can not tolerate this any more.”
Without making any specific recommendations, it is up to the viewers to determine what the President actually meant by these words in his speech. No doubt Obama’s supporters and detractors will have no difficulty filling in the blanks for how to avoid similar tragedies. Regardless of opinion, no one can question the political savvy the President used in his speech to the nation.
One can not be sure if NBC was aware of the contents of Obama’s remarks prior to interrupting the football game for approximately 20 minutes. (It seemed to Niner fans to be longer) As this action by NBC was arguably unprecedented, is this the first of a new direction on the part of news media in their coverage of national politics?
I hope not, because taking such strong action to me constitutes manipulation of the news and a possible violation of free speech under the Bill of Rights. It also gives concern that by setting priorities for what news events are to be covered, we could possibly fall into the pit of manipulation of the media which characterizes totalitarian regimes around the world.
A die hard liberal friend of mine reminded me this morning that “NBC’s courageous decision to interrupt the football game proves that the network was more interested in educating the public than the possible loss of advertising revenue while the President was speaking.”
No doubt this opinion along with others who questioned the validity of NBC’s decision to interrupt the Sunday Night Football game are not without merit. The important thing to realize is that this type of debate is essential to the successful operation of our democracy.
With that being said, 49er fans should be grateful that the team was able to defeat the Patriots to set up the battle against the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday night. We can only hope President Obama has better things to do when the game is being played and will let us watch the game in peace.