Saturday, November 08, 2003


A Seismic shift was revealed yesterday. CBS will not broadcast "The Reagan's". This would not have happened even a few years ago. The difference is the "new media" - the internet, cable television and talk radio.

In what was truly a grass roots effort to stave off a brutal and partisan smearing, the "Old Media" backed down. This is the type of populist uprising against powerful institutional forces that should have made hippies proud. Except it is conservatives who are now the counter-culture when it comes to mass media.

There are those who are screaming "censorship", but they do not know what censorship is. No government agency was involved in CBS wavering. It was a business decision. Airing the final product would have tarnished the CBS brand, even if it garnered huge ratings.

The difference between "The Reagan's" and other controversial projects that did air was best summed up by a CBS executive "with the others, we felt that the audience reaction would redeem our decision. After viewing the film it was clear that wasn't the case here". Even the president of CBS said "its biased".

As president, Ronald Reagan dared say what everyone knew, but were afraid to say when he called the Soviet Union an "Evil Empire". As president he said what no one else was saying when he predicted that communism was destined for the "ash heap of history". As president he pointed out the elephant in the room - "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!". He had an unshakable confidence in America and Americans at a time when many were starting to doubt. There are people who despise him for this.

Matt Drudge, who is a leader in both the internet and talk radio had been warning of the coming hit job for months. Not only were Nancy and Ron being portrayed by well known liberal activists, the producers were well known liberal activists. The final cut did not disappoint.

Any "artist interpretation" arguments are forfeited because this movie was intentionally vindictive (in a creepy romantic scene, they have Ron referring to Nancy as "Mommy", for Christ's sake).

CBS deserves credit for doing the right thing, regardless of the reasons they state publicly.

What will be interesting is if CBS owned Showtime broadcasts "The Reagan's". It is difficult to tell who exactly is watching broadcast TV. There are only 5,000 metering boxes in the entire country.

Not so with pay TV. When the calls start coming in with individuals threatening to cancel their Showtime subscription, the executives are going to have a tough decision to make.

My prediction? It doesn't air. If it does it will be in syndication to independent broadcasters.

Its was a missed opportunity. With the nation at war and one of our most popular presidents slowly dying, a patriotic depiction of Ronald Reagan, explaining his greatness would have been good for the country and good business for CBS. They just couldn't help themselves.


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