Last week it was reported that sports network ESPN had pulled out of a co-production with PBS’ ‘Frontline’ documentary show about the serious issue of concussions in the National Football League (NFL). The report was that the NFL pressured ESPN to pull out which shouldn’t be a surprise since the network pays a billion dollars for the rights to NFL games and league access. It is further proof that our mainstream media won’t challenge their corporate owners.
According to the Times report, the league expressed its displeasure with ESPN’s role on the two-part documentary at a lunch meeting last week in Manhattan involving NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, NFL Network president Steve Bornstein, ESPN president John Skipper and ESPN executive vice president John Wildhack. The documentary, scheduled to air Oct. 8 and 15, will focus on an area for which the NFL has drawn considerable public criticism in recent years: the league’s poor record when it comes to addressing concussions suffered by its players.
ESPN and its parent company, Disney, have a longstanding broadcasting partnership with the NFL, paying the league more than $1 billion annually for the rights to air “Monday Night Football.”
Of course the NFL has a serious issue with player concussions. In fact they are being sued by many former players over the issue:
The latest lawsuit against the NFL over concussions includes former Pro Bowlers Clinton Portis and Daunte Culpepper as plaintiffs.
The Washington Times reports that Portis is the lead plaintiff in an 83-player lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Portis recently said he played through concussions “all the time” during his nine-year career with Denver and Washington.
Culpepper, who played for the Vikings, Dolphins, Raiders and Lions, and former NFL running back Cadillac Williams are among the 82 co-plaintiffs.
The NFL is now facing dozens of lawsuits, with a total of more than 4,500 plaintiffs, from former players who say their lives have been adversely affected by brain injuries suffered on the field.
It isn’t the first time the Disney Company has been involved with pressure to change news coverage. Back in 1998, Disney pressured their own ABC news unit to kill a story about Disney:
ABC News has nixed a 20/20 newsmagazine story critical of parent corporation Disney, specifically its hiring and safety problems at the Disney World theme park in Orlando, Florida. The piece is based on the upcoming book Disney: The Mouse Betrayed.
However, network flacks insist that ABC News honcho David Westin killed the story on his own, without the influence of Disney executives. “A draft story was submitted that did not work, ABC spokeswoman Eileen Murphy told Associated Press. “This does not reflect badly on any reporter or producer involved. It’s an inevitable part of the editorial process.”
Murphy added to the Washington Post: “The fact that this particular story involved Disney was not the reason it did not air.”
Baloney, says Peter Schweizer, coauthor of Mouse Betrayed. “If this were a story about any other company in America, would there be this problem?” he asks the Post.
As for the reporter and producer, Brian Ross (considered the network’s top investigative newshound) and Rhonda Schwartz? They were purportedly given a stern chewing-out by Westin himself after the news honcho saw the script. In fact, inside sources say Westin labeled the pair “crazy” for thinking the thing could air.
Of course I don’t expect ESPN to be objective journalists when it comes to the people who provide the programing of their channel like the NFL, MLB, and NBA. It is the same thing we see in the news departments of the major networks. They don’t do the job they should because they don’t want to piss off the powers-that-be and get their access cut off.
Should it be different. Yes. Will it change? Only if the people who watch the media pressure them to change. Viewer beware!