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ABC, like the rest of the former news industry, has devolved from often left-slanted reporting to outright leftwing propaganda. So goes the modern American media. But at what point does this divergence between claimed truth and real fiction violate parent-company Disney’s obligation not to mislead the investing public about the import of its corporate behavior?
ABC News has always leant to the left, since its earliest days as the last-to-the-post television network of the original Big Three under the stewardship of an always personally partisan Howard K. Smith. It probably reached its apogee as a news organization in that glorious decade-and-a-half after the magisterial David Brinkley jumped over from NBC to helm (at least spiritually) the news division from his post atop This Week, which had been created for him. The depth of the network’s fall can be measured by the distance between Brinkley’s even-handed and wise avuncularity and the bouncing, burbling bias of his replacement, that tiny avatar of the Clinton Administration’s dirty-tricks office, George Stephanopoulos.
By this cyclone year of 2020, ABC News has completely abandoned even the illusion of providing objective news. Consider just a few recent examples. This past weekend, it reported (well, asserted) that “protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified.” Got that? Burning down a courthouse is apparently not rioting, or even violence; it is just intensified peaceful protest. The same day, an ABC correspondent claimed with a straight face that Portland’s “protests” hadn’t been violent in weeks – which would probably have surprised anyone who had recently been near the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse.
Any sensible person understands that one must treat the former American press, including the ABC propaganda outlet, the way Soviet citizens used to read Pravda: try to figure out what’s true by noticing what the stories do not mention or are clearly trying to obscure.
Still, ABC’s lies create a particular problem for Disney, just as CNN’s lies do for AT&T, and NBC’s for Comcast. Each of these former news organizations continue emphatically to insist that they are publishing real news – that what they report is purely truth and fact. Corporations, though, have legal obligations to be genuinely truthful in their statements of purported fact to the public about matters relevant to their businesses when that public includes current or potential shareholders – which is to say, always.
This obligation may go some way to solving a mystery raised by Karen Townsend at Townhall sister site Hot Air: Why would Disney join the much-ballyhooed “boycott” of Facebook by advertisers without personally crowing about it? As she notes, Disney is usually not shy about its wokeness: just this month, Disney happily signed Colin Kaepernick – who has after some years of dissembling fully admitted his loathing of the United States – and ABC happily reported the fact.
Here is potentially why: because anything that ABC might say about Disney’s cut in Facebook advertising would probably be so false as to violate Disney’s duty of honesty to its shareholders.
The wokesters of the former media, including ABC, dutifully asserted that the general cut in advertising at Facebook was a “boycott intended to pressure Facebook into taking a stronger stand against hate speech,” thereby simply rehashing the assertions of the press offices of those companies to that effect.
ABC apparently failed to investigate that claim. If it had, it would likely have considered that what the press offices were calling a boycott was in reality a cut in advertising in response to diminished revenues because of the shutdown. (After all, the “boycott,” as declared, was meant to go on for a month, maybe more, depending on some unspecified factors. That’s not how boycotts meant to achieve a discrete goal – even a bad goal like politically motivated speech restrictions – usually work.) ABC could have followed up by reporting that Twitter’s advertising has also fallen dramatically over the same period, despite Jack Dorsey being totally down with politically biased speech restrictions, and despite no faux boycott having been declared there. And ABC might even have begun to question whether leftwing corporate activism is good for its parent’s, or any company’s, bottom line.
It appears not to have done any of that. That would have required objective analysis and honest reporting.
ABC’s blinkers notwithstanding, it appears clearer and clearer that there may just be something to the rising “get woke, go broke” aphorism. Disney itself added a data point to that analysis just last week: A&E, half-owned by Disney, has lost half of its viewership (at a time when everyone’s stuck at home) because it dropped Live PD from its schedule (because, you know, cops can’t be shown in a good light). Jeff Bezos is finding out that, despite his woke signals, he and Amazon are still hated by the left and will still be taxedto perdition in their hometown; Starbucks is in the same boat.
So perhaps Disney kept schtum about a Facebook “boycott” because its advertising cuts are nothing of the sort. And perhaps it has kept ABC from “reporting” about Disney’s corporate behavior at all, given that ABC can no longer be relied upon even to try to convey reliable facts to its audience.
It also could all be coincidence. Regardless, it raises a question for shareholders who are tired of the abandonment of truth and objectivity by their corporations’ “news” divisions. At what point are ABC’s, CNN’s and NBC’s truth assertions so false, and so relevant to the corporate behavior of their parents, that they breach actionable legal duties?
Scott Shepard is a fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research and Deputy Director of its Free Enterprise Project. This was first published by Townhall Finance.
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Author: Scott Shepard