Saturday, August 2, 2014

What Brian Williams and NBC Nightly News Reported On In July

Without comment or editorial, I present this partial list of stories that Brian Williams and NBC Nightly News reported during July, 2014:

Miscellaneous:
➣Lightning strikes--4 stories (in addition to being included in 4 other stories)
➣Prince George--3 stories
➣The Supermoon--3 stories
➣Dust storms--2 stories
➣Kansas City's Verr├╝ckt water slide--2 stories
➣Manhattanhenge--1 story
➣Swimming babies--1 story
➣Scenic tour of Route 66--1 story
➣Mayfly swarm in Wisconsin--1 story
➣5-year-old girl crying because she doesn't want her baby brother to grow up--1 story

Animals:
➣Whales--2 stories
➣Bear cub with its head stuck in a cookie jar--1 story
➣Panda cub--1 story
➣Wolf pups--1 story
➣Surfing dog--1 story

Movies and TV Shows:
➣The Emmys (to air on NBC Aug. 25)--1 story
➣"Jaws" (released by NBC/Universal in 1975)--1 story
➣"50 Shades of Grey" (to be released next Feb. by NBC/Universal's Focus Features)--1 story
➣"When Harry Met Sally"--1 story
➣"Sharknado 2" (which aired on the NBC-owned SyFy Channel)--1 story
➣"Peter Pan" (to air on NBC Dec. 4 and starring Brian Williams' daughter Allison)--1 story
➣"A Hard Day's Night"--1 story
➣"Seinfeld"--1 story
➣"Boyhood"--1 story

Celebrities & Athletes:
➣Tracy Morgan--2 stories
➣George Clooney--1 story
➣Robert Redford--1 story
➣Adele--1 story
➣Jimmy Fallon/Halle Berry--1 story
➣LeBron James--2 stories
➣Derek Jeter--2 stories
➣George Harrison--1 story

The total time for all these stories combined was 47 minutes 38 seconds, which is the equivalent of more than two entire Nightly News broadcasts. However, in July, Nightly News did not report a single story on:

➢Syria
➢Egypt
➢Pakistan
➢India
➢China
➢Taiwan
➢Iran
➢Thailand
➢Sudan
➢South Sudan
➢Kenya
➢South Africa
➢Mali
➢Somalia

On the NBC News Twitter feed (@NBCNews), the moderators describe it as, "A leading source of global news and information for more than 75 years." The NBC Nightly News Twitter feed (@NBCNightlyNews) makes no such claim--the moderators simply refer to the broadcast as, "America's most-watched evening news broadcast."

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Brian Williams Insults Jews, African Americans And Latinos On NBC Nightly News

On NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams often reports stories about inappropriate action or speech directed at religious, ethnic and racial groups.  He has already reported on Los Angeles Clippers' owner Donald Sterling's racist comments, and we can expect Brian to continue reporting this story in the coming weeks.  Not only will he report it, but he will do so with outrage and derision.  Because Brian Williams is a fair and just man with no biases or prejudices against any group.  Or so he would have us believe.  As we watch Brian report on Donald Sterling's comments, we should take a moment to remember some of Brian's own inappropriate comments.

On January 26, 2009, Brian wrote one of his Daily Nightly blog posts titled "Old man river at Obama's inauguration".  (http://dailynightly.nbcnews.com/_news/2009/01/26/4373517-old-man-river-at-obamas-inauguration?lite.)  (The blog's title referred Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, who was a guest at President Obama's first inauguration.)  A brief history lesson for Brian: The lyrics for the song "Old Man River" (also known as "Ol' Man River") were written by Oscar Hammerstein II for the 1927 play "Showboat".  And although the song was later sanitized, the original lyrics were extremely racist and even included the vile "n" word to describe African Americans.  It hardly seems appropriate for a news anchor to use a once-racist song title in a blog post about the inauguration of our nation's first African American president.

Later that year, speaking at the 2009 Nantucket Film Festival (as reported by the 6/22/09 bostonherald.com website [http://business.highbeam.com/3972/article-1G1-202214900/nbc-newsguy-steals-show-nantucket]), Brian told his audience, "Welcome to the Nantucket Film Festival--where Jews come to be honored.  Nantucket is actually a Yiddish word meaning where the WASPS live."  Isn't he hilarious?  I guess it's okay to mock Jewish people now and then--just don't make a habit of it.

And on May 29, 2013, Brian read a story on NBC Nightly News about President Obama having lipstick on his collar during a public appearance.  (Let's ignore the fact that this didn't remotely qualify as a news story and it didn't belong on a national newscast.  Obviously, Brian Williams makes a living reporting frivolous stories with no news value.)  During his introduction to the story, Brian said, "The President of the United States had a bit of 'splainin' to do last night...."  The reference was to a phrase Desi Arnaz often uttered to Lucille Ball on the 1950's sitcom "I Love Lucy".  (Senator Tom Coburn had also used the "'splainin'" phrase while questioning Sonia Sotomayor during Ms. Sotomayor's 2009 Senate confirmation hearing.  Coburn's use of that word set off a firestorm of criticism that the word was insulting to Ms. Sotomayor's Latina heritage.)  I don't think there's any question that this word is derogatory and insulting to Latinos and Latinas.  It's no different than affecting an exaggerated Chinese or Italian accent to mock a person from China or Italy.  It's nothing less than appalling that Brian had the nerve to use this offensive word on a network newscast.

So as we watch Brian Williams reporting on Donald Sterling's racist remarks this week, let us not forget some of Brian's own words.  Of course, his comments raise a larger question: If these are the types of things Brian is saying in public, what exactly is he saying in private?

Friday, April 18, 2014

NBC Nightly News's Dr. Nancy Snyderman Is A Shill For Merck

On Thursday, April 17, 2014, NBC News Chief Medical Editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman reported a story about allergies for NBC Nightly News.  During this story, she informed us that allergy shots could alleviate allergy symptoms.  Then she added this: "But now there are alternatives to injections.  Two new prescription pills just approved by the FDA treat certain grass pollen allergies.  Both melt under the tongue.  Grastek is for ages 5 years to 65, Oralair for ages 10 to 65.  Another, Ragwitek is approved for ragweed pollen."  During Snyderman's narration, three animated prescription pads appeared on the screen, each prominently containing the name and logo of the drugs she had just described.  Two of these drugs--Grastek and Ragwitek--are manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Merck (Oralair is manufactured by Stallergenes and distributed in the U.S. by Greer Laboratories).

Exactly one minute after Snyderman's story concluded, Nightly News aired a commercial for Shinglesinfo.com--a pseudo-informational website sponsored by Merck that contains a link to another site for the shingles vaccine drug Zostavax, which is (not surprisingly) manufactured by Merck.  Five minutes after the shingles ad, Nightly News aired a commercial for Dr. Scholl's P.R.O. Pain Relief Orthotics--another Merck product.  There was a precedent for Snyderman's dubious behavior: She had previously plugged Merck's Grastek in an allergy story that aired on the 12/11/13 Nightly News, a broadcast that also carried a commercial for Merck's Oxytrol.

It seems pretty obvious what's happening here.  At the very least, Snyderman made a point of plugging one of NBC's big sponsors in her allergy stories.  But I suspect a much less innocuous situation.  I believe that both of these allergy stories were concocted by the NBC Advertising and Marketing Department for the sole purpose of plugging newly-approved Merck drugs.  They may have even been part of a package deal.  NBC could have offered Merck a certain number of weekly or monthly ads on Nightly News--plus one or more in-story promotional plugs--for a special rate.  Certainly a plug from NBC News's Chief Medical Editor offers gravitas--a tremendous benefit for a pharmaceutical company whose products are fighting for attention alongside all the other products that are crammed into a 2½ minute commercial break.  And many (if not most) viewers ignore or zip through commercials, so an in-story product placement virtually guarantees that people will be watching.

Even before these allergy stories, Snyderman had already shilled for Merck.  On 6/4/13, she reported a Nightly News story about the benefits of sunscreen as a skin protector and anti-aging agent.  That report began with a clip from a Bain de Soleil ad (including the familiar jingle "Bain de Soleil for that Saint-Tropez tan").  Later in the story, the camera panned across a well-placed studio array of seven bottles of sunscreen, including three bottles of Coppertone--which were prominently positioned in front of the other sunscreens.  Both Bain de Soleil and Coppertone were, at the time, manufactured by Merck [Note: As of July, 2014, Coppertone was acquired by Bayer].  Eight minutes after Snyderman's story aired, Nightly News ran a commercial for the aforementioned Dr. Scholl's P.R.O. Pain Relief Orthotics--which are (as previously noted) also a Merck product.  This is no coincidence.  NBC Nightly News producers, anchors and correspondents have a history of using "news stories" to plug NBC sponsors' products.  (For a detailed list of NBC Nightly News plugs and product placements, see this blog's 6/12/13 entry: "Brian Williams Uses Product Placements In NBC Nightly News Stories" or click on this link: http://nightly-daily.blogspot.com/2013/06/brian-williams-and-his-producers.html.)

But please don't get the idea that Merck is the only company that Snyderman shills for.  On 1/2/13, Nightly News aired Snyderman's story on fructose.  It included ad clips for Lean Cuisine, Weight Watchers and the weight-loss drug Alli--which is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline--a frequent NBC advertiser and Nightly News in-broadcast sponsor.  A 7/15/13 Snyderman story on high blood pressure included a plug for Fritos (ironic, to say the least).  Her 8/2/13 story on gluten-free food options prominently featured gluten-free products like Ian's, Amy's, Glutino, Tastykake and Mi-Del.  On 8/10/13, Snyderman's story on new health insurance choices included 30 seconds of interior and exterior shots of a Starbucks.  Her 9/3/13 story on Diana Nyad featured a Dairy Queen plug.  On 1/15/14, Snyderman reported an alarmist story about how acetaminophen (most frequently sold in the U.S. as Tylenol) can damage the liver.  This story was clearly meant to hurt Tylenol and help its competitor Aleve--a pain-relief product manufactured by regular Nightly News sponsor Bayer.  On 2/27/14, she again railed about the dangers of acetaminophen.

It's shameful that any NBC producer, anchor or correspondent would use a news broadcast to plug a network sponsor, but it's even more shameful when done by a medical correspondent--and a physician, no less.  Of course, if NBC is, in fact, getting paid for these in-story product placements, that elevates the situation from shameful to unethical, and perhaps even to the point of illegality.  I don't see how viewers can possibly trust Nancy Snyderman to report honestly and objectively when one of her primary goals seems to be promoting the products of NBC sponsors.

UPDATE 10/13/14: Since this post was originally published, Nancy Snyderman has continued to plug pharmaceutical companies and other NBC advertisers in her NBC Nightly News stories.

5/30/14: Snyderman reported a story that plugged the hormone therapy drug Zoladex. Zoladex is manufactured by AstraZeneca, maker of Crestor, Prilosec, Nexium and Symbicort--all of which currently advertise or did advertise on Nightly News and other NBC-owned networks.

7/1/14: A Snyderman story on allergies included a plug for Xolair, made by Novartis/Genentech.  Novartis also makes Theraflu, Excedrin, Benefiber and Prevacid--products that advertise on NBC.

7/15/14: A Snyderman story about dosage mistakes included a 13-second product placement for Tamiflu--manufactured by Genentech/Roche.

7/29/14: Snyderman's story about skin cancer featured a product placement for Coppertone sunscreen, which Bayer had acquired from Merck earlier that month.  Snyderman didn't waste any time shilling for Bayer--which is Nightly News's biggest sponsor.

8/29/14: During her report on walk-in medical clinics, Snyderman spent 40 seconds specifically plugging Walmart's walk-in medical clinics.  Walmart is a big NBC advertiser.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Brian Williams & NBC Nightly News Plug, Plug, Plug The Sochi Olympics

Anyone who watches NBC Nightly News on a semi-regular basis knows that one of the main goals of Brian Williams and his producers is to use their broadcast to promote NBC sports, entertainment and news shows, as well as cable shows that appear on the many NBC/Universal networks such as USA, Bravo, SyFy, E! and The Weather Channel.  For example, on Monday, Feb. 17, Nightly News featured Brian's four-minute short-form documentary about Jimmy Fallon's new gig as host of The Tonight Show.  Obviously, this "news report" was meant to increase viewership for Fallon's premiere show later that night.  While some Nightly News promotions are blatant, some are not so obvious.  Last June 23 & 24, Lester Holt (Sunday) and Brian Williams  (Monday) spent a combined 4:35 promoting Nik Wallenda's tightrope walk across the Little Colorado River Gorge (adjacent to the Grand Canyon) which was also being aired as a Discovery Channel special.  Since Discovery Channel is not owned by NBC/Universal, these may have seemed like just another couple of stories that fell under the category of entertainment news.  However, neither Lester nor Brian (nor reporters Ben Fogle or Anne Thompson) disclosed that the Discovery Skywalk special was produced by Peacock Productions--a company owned by NBC/Universal.  So in actuality, this was a sleazy and deceptive way for Nightly News to drum up interest in a show that NBC would profit from--without any disclosure about the relationship between NBC and Discovery.  This is business as usual for Brian Williams and his Nightly News producers.  (Sidenote: In his June 23 story, Lester Holt announced that Wallenda would be walking across "the Grand Canyon".  That was an intentional lie--the Little Colorado River Gorge is not part of the Grand Canyon.  But Lester and his producers knew that invoking the Grand Canyon would be better for Discovery's Skywalk ratings.)  Another example: Nightly News occasionally does stories about the popularity of PBS's "Downton Abbey", but Brian and his correspondents often "forget" to disclose that "Downton Abbey" is produced by Carnival Films--which is owned by NBC/Universal.  These omissions are, of course, intentionally meant to fool viewers by promoting the show while masking the relationship between NBC and its subsidiary production companies.

But the Olympics are an entirely different animal.  No subterfuge is needed or even attempted in NBC's blatant and aggressive promotion of the Olympics every other year.  Since NBC paid dearly for the privilege of carrying the Olympics (their most recent deal, which began with the 2014 Olympics and runs through the 2020 Olympics, cost NBC $4.38 billion), they make sure to promote the Games through all NBC/Universal platforms.  And, of course, NBC Nightly News is a big part of that promotion.  A promotional story about the Olympics that airs on a news broadcast carries a lot more gravitas with the viewers than a similar story shown on an entertainment show.

Nightly News began promoting the 2014 Sochi Olympics on Feb. 5, 2013--more than a year before the opening ceremony was scheduled to begin.  That night's broadcast featured a 2:15 story on Lindsey Vonn's knee injury, and also included her then-rumored (and now public) romance with Tiger Woods.  Over the next 11 months, Nightly News aired 8 more Vonn stories totaling more than 14 minutes.  But those stories ended abruptly with a Jan. 7 story reporting that Vonn's knee injury had finally forced her to withdraw from the Olympics.  While this injury was devastating to Vonn, I suspect that it was even more devastating to NBC.  Up to that point, Vonn had been NBC's poster person for the Olympics.  And Nightly News had reported on every aspect of Vonn's life from her skiing to her romance with Woods to her "pretty" looks and "blonde hair".  After Vonn's knee injury, Nightly News's Vonn stories became a running will-she-or-won't-she soap opera about whether she would actually compete in Sochi.  When she finally announced that she would not compete, Nightly News dropped Vonn like a not-so-hot potato and instead began focusing on other Olympic stars like Gracie Gold, Lolo Jones and the Jamaican Bobsled Team.

So how much time did NBC Nightly News actually spend promoting the 2014 Olympics?  Beginning with that 2/5/13 Lindsey Vonn story, NBC Nightly News spent a total of 225 minutes--3 hours 45 minutes--promoting the Sochi Games.  Before the Sochi Opening Ceremony took place on Feb. 7, Nightly News had already spent 101 minutes promoting the Olympics.  And over the 17 days of competition, Nightly News spent another 124 minutes on stories meant to insure that viewers would tune in.  Permit me to state the obvious: The more people that watch the Olympics, the higher NBC's ratings will be.  And higher ratings translates to more ad revenue--either for these games or for subsequent Games.  So--no surprise--Nightly News's extensive promotion of the Olympics was really just a way to generate revenue for NBC.  Let's put this in perspective.  Nightly News isn't a 30-minute broadcast.  It isn't even a 24-minute broadcast.  After filtering out the commercials, the opening tease, the incessant promotions (for The Today Show, The Tonight Show, Meet the Press, Dateline, etc.) and Brian Williams's overlong sign off, a Nightly News broadcast usually contains somewhere between 18½ and 19½ minutes of news (the word "news" is really a misnomer, since a Nightly News broadcast often includes many minutes of non-news stories.  But for these purposes, we can generously consider all Nightly News stories to be actual news).  Occasionally (though rarely), a broadcast will run a few seconds over 20 minutes.  So even assuming a 20-minute run time for a broadcast, the 225 minutes that Nightly News spent promoting the Olympics is equivalent to more than 11 entire Nightly News broadcasts.  That raises a disturbing question: What stories didn't Nightly News cover in order to spend 225 minutes promoting the Olympics over the course of an entire year?  In 2013 and early 2014, there were elections in Kenya, Cambodia, Mali, Pakistan. Zimbabwe, Australia, Norway, Germany, Austria, Chile, Bangladesh and Thailand.  Nightly News did not report a single story on any of these elections.  But we sure learned an awful lot about Lindsey Vonn's knee.

So how did the 3 hours 45 minutes Nightly News devoted to promoting the 2014 Olympics stack up against past Olympics?  Before and during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Nightly News spent a meager 2 hours 40 minutes on Olympic promotional stories.  And Nightly News aired 3 hours 9 minutes of promotional stories for the 2012 Summer Games in London.  But the 3 hours 45 minutes Nightly News spent promoting the Sochi Olympics represents a new Olympic record.  Well done!  Brian Williams, his producers and everyone at NBC Nightly News deserve a gold medal for their efforts.  (Although sadly, despite the combined efforts of everyone at NBC, ratings for the Sochi Games were down an estimated 12% from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.)  And I think it's a safe bet that for the 2016 Rio Games, Nightly News's promotional story total will easily eclipse the 4-hour mark.  Now there's something to look forward to.  Starting, no doubt, in the summer of 2015.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Brian Williams And The NBC Nightly News Producers Fudge The Numbers--Again

Here's something interesting for NBC Nightly News viewers: Brian Williams was off Friday, Dec. 20.  He returned to anchor Nightly News on Monday, Dec. 23, and then took off Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  That seems odd.  Why would he take Friday off, return for just one day and then take the next four days off?  If not for Monday, he could have had a vacation of ten consecutive days (or more, depending on his schedule for New Year's week).  Well, remember that nothing at Nightly News happens randomly or by accident.  There was a very specific reason why Brian anchored the broadcast for only one day this past week.  And, not surprisingly, it has to do with ratings.  On those weekdays when Brian is off and someone else anchors the broadcast, the ratings are always lower than on the days when Brian anchors.  So on those days when Brian isn't anchoring (and he and his producers know the ratings will be lower), they submit Nightly News to the Nielsen ratings company intentionally misspelled as "Nitely News".  When that happens, Nielsen counts the lower-rated "Nitely News" shows in a separate category from the correctly-spelled Nightly News broadcasts, and thus they don't detract from the higher Nightly News ratings.  For example, let's say Monday's Nightly News broadcast anchored by Brian earned a 7.5 rating.  And let's say the other four broadcasts (with a substitute anchor) averaged a 6 rating.  The actual average Nightly News rating for the week would be a 6.3.  But because Brian and his producers submitted the Tuesday through Friday broadcasts misspelled as "Nitely News", they are not counted in the same category as Nightly News.  So Brian and his producers can claim that Nightly News actually had a 7.5 rating for the week--even though that number is deceptively based on just a single broadcast.  That's why Brian made sure to anchor one broadcast this past week.  Whatever rating Brian achieved on Monday will be considered the Nightly News rating for the entire Christmas week, since the other four (lower-rated) broadcasts were submitted to Nielsen with a different spelling.  And with a higher weekly rating, NBC can charge higher ad rates.  It's fudging the numbers and playing the system.  Another way to describe it: Cheating.  It's like giving a false name to the police so they won't know you have outstanding warrants under your real name.  This sleazy practice of intentionally misspelling Nightly News as "Nitely News" has been going on for years with the full blessing of Brian and former NBC News President Steve Capus.  And apparently, new NBC News president Deborah Turness has also signed off on this unethical practice.  This is the type of organization the NBC executives preside over.  Their main concern is high ratings--rather than delivering news--since that allows NBC to charge higher ad rates.  And let's face it--earning higher ad rates is what matters most to the NBC executives.  So Merry Christmas from all the highfalutin lowlifes at NBC News!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Brian Williams Just Doesn't Care Anymore

On Tuesday's NBC Nightly News (7/2/13), Brian Williams read a story about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.  Brian informed us that Snowden has made asylum requests to almost two dozen countries--including "nine countries in Europe".  However, as Brian said this, the accompanying on-screen map of Snowden's potential destinations highlighted eleven European countries: Iceland, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, Poland, Austria and Italy.  Perhaps Brian doesn't realize that Scandinavia is part of Europe.  But if you subtract the three Scandinavian countries, that would leave eight, not nine, European countries.  It's more likely that Brian just doesn't give a shit anymore.  Nine, eleven--whatever.  His job is secure, so why should he care about accuracy.

Later in the broadcast, Brian introduced a story about the increasing number of women who die as a result of addiction to prescription painkillers.  This was his intro: "Big news today about a spike in the number of middle-age women who are becoming addicted to prescription pain medicines and a warning from the CDC about the thousands who are dying from it--over 6,000 women every year.  Our report tonight from NBC's Tom Costello."  And here's how Costello's report began: "The statistics from the CDC are cause for real concern for doctors, pharmacists and hospitals.  Between 1999 and 2010, nearly 48,000 women died of prescription painkiller overdoses."  So if 48,000 women died over that 12-year period, that averages out to 4,000 a year--not the 6,000 Brian quoted us.  (The CDC website confirms that in 2010, 6,600 women died from painkiller overdoses, but the 1999-2010 total clearly shows that that is not the case "every year", as Brian claimed.)  But quoting the most recent year's number of "over 6,000" makes the story sound a lot more alarmist and sensationalistic than the smaller (but accurate) yearly average of 4,000 so Brian went with that.  When it comes to selling a story, Brian doesn't care about accuracy.

But here's something Brian really, really does care about:  Promoting fast-food chains on his broadcast.  Brian began reading a story about the so-called worst meal in America, but it quickly turned into a commercial for the chain in question: "The folks at the Center for Science in the Public Interest--sometimes affectionately known as the food police--have identified what they are calling 'The Worst Meal In America'--'The Big Catch' at Long John Silver's.  It features fried fish, hush puppies and onion rings and comes in at 33 grams of trans-fat."  But then Brian shifts gears: "The company today called the meal a tremendous value at $4.99 and said customers had the option of healthy side orders."  The last 10 seconds of this story was comprised of clips from Long John Silver's TV ads.  So clearly, what started out as a negative story became an excuse for Brian to help Long John Silver's advertise their products and battle any negative publicity associated with the Center's report.  "A tremendous value at $4.99"!  If Brian says it, it must be true.  Because he's, you know, trustworthy.  Of course, shilling for fast food companies is nothing new for Brian.  Here's a "news story" he read on the 4/5/13 Nightly News: "There's marketing news--in what USA Today calls an astonishing brand reversal, KFC is about to go big on boneless chicken.  If you like a bucket of chicken, you know you'd never think to say 'boneless' when ordering it but now they're betting on the new original recipe boneless in what brand experts say is the biggest new product introduction for KFC in modern times."  I'd love to know how much KFC paid Brian to read that shameless ad.  Of course, when it comes to getting on-air endorsements from Brian Williams, KFC can't hold a candle to McDonald's.  Over the past four years, Brian Williams and his Nightly News correspondents have reported an astonishing 17 "news stories" on McDonald's (all positive, I might add).  That's not surprising when you consider the staggering amount of money McDonald's spends on advertising and promotion on the many NBC/Universal/Comcast television networks.  So I guess working McDonald's product placements into news stories is just a way for Brian and his NBC News cohorts to give a great big "thank you" to a regular advertiser.

Sometimes, though, the best strategy is to say nothing.  A 7/1/13 New York Times article reported that the pharmaceutical mega-conglomerate GlaxoSmithKline was being investigated in China for "economic crimes" including bribery (read the full story at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/02/business/global/glaxosmithkline-under-investigation-by-chinese-authorities.html?ref=global).  Glaxo is a frequent sponsor and advertiser on NBC Nightly News (and other NBC/Universal/Comcast shows), so Brian certainly wasn't going to report this story.  He may like to shill for his sponsors, but he also knows when to keep his big mouth shut.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

NBC News' Janet Shamlian Shills For The Pharmaceutical Industry

On Sunday's NBC Nightly News (6/30/13), correspondent Janet Shamlian reported on a new drug called Brisdelle that, for some women, may reduce hot flashes associated with menopause.  Of course this is Nightly News, so the story was just a 2:05 product placement for Brisdelle (and its manufacturer Noven).  But really it was so much more.

Shamlian and Lester Holt (the anchor who introduced the story) told us that Brisdelle had been approved by the FDA.  However, neither Holt nor Shamlian disclosed the following information:  "In March, the FDA's Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs voted 10 to 4 against recommending approval of paroxetine mesylate [Brisdelle] as a treatment for hot flashes."  (That information courtesy of Medscape News: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/807082.)  It is highly unusual for the FDA to go against an advisory committee recommendation, and Nightly News viewers deserved to know this information.  But that would require Shamlian to be fully truthful about Brisdelle, which she was not.

Shamlian also failed to disclose that Noven Pharmaceuticals has entered into a licensing agreement with Procter & Gamble whereby P & G will license Noven's as-yet-unnamed hormone skin patch which is designed to boost sex drive in women.  P & G is the largest consumer products company in the world, and each year it spends millions and millions of dollars in advertising and sponsorship money with the many NBC/Universal/Comcast television networks.

Later in the story, Shamlian explained that Brisdelle contained a lower dose of paroxetine, the major ingredient found in the anti-depressant Paxil.  We were then shown a full-screen photo of a clearly-labeled Paxil pill.  Paxil is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, a pharmaceutical behemoth that advertises heavily on Nightly News and other NBC/Universal/Comcast programs.

Shamlian's report began with a silly clip from "Mrs. Doubtfire" that showed Robin Williams' character complaining that he'd only been impersonating a woman for one day and already he's getting hot flashes.  Obviously, this did not help the viewers' understanding of menopausal hot flashes--it was just a gratuitous clip shoehorned into the story to make it more interesting to viewers.  One of the core philosophies of the NBC Nightly News producers (and anchor Brian Williams) is to pack their broadcast with movie and TV clips because the NBC Research Department has found that that tactic is very effective in boosting Nightly News's Nielsen ratings.

So let's recap: Shamlian intentionally omitted important information about the FDA's approval process for Brisdelle.  She neglected to mention Noven's licensing arrangement with NBC/Universal advertiser P & G.  She plugged Glaxo's Paxil.  And just for good measure, she threw in a clip from "Mrs. Doubtfire".  This wasn't a news story--it was a sleazy, unethical piece of biased yellow journalism.  It was a product placement (several of them, actually) masquerading as news.  But for NBC Nightly News, that's just business as usual.  Shame on Janet Shamlian and the Nightly News producers.  Interesting tidbit: You can't spell "Janet Shamlian" without the words "sham", "shame" and "lie".