Nikki Finke needs to calm down about her conspiratorial NBC-Obama scoop

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

The Hollywood industry journalist has certainly built herself a reputation for being a dogged reporter with good sources. But after reading her Drudge-esque scoop where she makes all sorts of dark conclusions about a massive NBC power play designed to censor the press, I think Finke ought to stick to writing about box office returns and production deals, because her grasp on the intersection of politics and the press seems rather weak.

I mean, is Finke actually serious when she claims that the federal government ("the FCC, and the FTC, and the U.S. Justice Department") ought to investigate NBC because a handful of its execs won't return calls from some movie industry trade reporters? Give me a break. The notion's just coo-coo and makes it impossible to take seriously anything that Finke writes in her breathless scoop.

The batty premise is this: The Hollywood Reporter back in April wrote up a news story about how some GE shareholders in the audience for the company's annual meeting in Orlando badgered GE execs during the Q&A session about whether its news coverage at NBC and MSNBC was too pro-Obama. THR treated the questions as a very big deal. ("Political drama at GE shareholders meeting.")

But I noted in real time in April how odd the THR article was and that it made no sense. Why would GE shareholders, who invest in the global conglomerate to earn back dividends, be upset that the GE-owned cable outlet MSNBC had practically doubled its ratings in recent years? Why would GE shareholders, who have suffered through dismal earning reports from the business icon recently, be upset that its cable news unit was bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars in ad revenue?

It turns out the THR journalist who wrote the piece wasn't even at the shareholder meeting. Instead, a handful of shareholder activists from Orlando simply fed him anti-MSNBC quotes after the fact; activists who were led by Bill O'Reilly's ambushing producer Jesse Waters who was at the meeting trying to cause a stir.

I also noted in April that while THR hyped the MSNBC "drama" at the shareholder meeting, neither Bloomberg News nor the AP, nor the WSJ ever mentioned the topic in their dispatches from GE's annual confab. Meaning, it looked like THR was guilty of trying to manufacture news where none existed. Like it was trying to legitimize a Bill O'Reilly publicity stunt.

Bottom line: the article was a train wreck. Now Finke claims NBC suits ordered their people to stop talking to THR because of the article.

But who cares if NBC shut out THR? There's no question the THR article in question was just an awful, awful piece of partisan gotcha journalism. And so what if NBC execs made their displeasure known by not returning THR's phone calls? This kind of corporate payback has been happening ever since God created industry trade reporters. Why on earth does Finke think the Justice Department ought to get involved? It's absolutely preposterous.

Suddenly NBC is legally bound to return reporters' phone calls? Suddenly NBC is legally bound to buy trade ads in THR? Oy.

I guess the federal probe angle is supposed to be tied into the fact that Finke seems to suggest that the Obama administration is somehow a central player in this 'scandal.' But it's not. And Finke offers no proof to suggest the GE news outlets have tilted its political coverage one way or another.

Again, this is just Drudge-esque heavy breathing masquerading as a scoop.

UPDATE: I corrected the spelling of Finke's first name. My apologies.

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