The criticism of the ABC News broadcast from the White House tonight has taken on a life of its own. First there has been outrage that the evening newscast, "World News," anchored by Charlie Gibson, is going to be broadcast from the White House's Blue Room tonight. This is nothing new. In 1993 the Clinton White House invited radio talk show hosts to broadcast on the White House lawn on the same issue (health care). Radio hosts were invited to a briefing by then First Lady Hillary Clinton, and set up broadcast lines on the lawn with guests provided by the White House. These radio rows were continued by the Bush administration on various issues, with guests provided by the White House. No opposing views allowed.
The problem I have is not with the White House. They are doing what all White Houses do: attempting to control the message. I also personally happen to agree with President Obama's health care plan. I think it will serve America well. My views do not negate the issue of fairness on the side of ABC News. Tonight's broadcasts are a media coup for the Obama administration. God Bless them!
However, ABC News is the one that should be faulted. ABC News Senior Vice President Kerry Smith said that the network intends to offer a "balanced series of broadcasts that will be beyond White House control." I congratulate him for that, but why didn't they announce that they intended to do that when they announced the White House Town Hall and broadcasts? It is obvious they were responding to pressure.
Even if ABC News keeps their word and offers "balance" (a word straight from FOX News Channel), it will not have the same effect as having a response tonight. It would be like the president delivering a State of the Union speech and having the opposition response a week later. No one would care and no one would watch. One wonders what was in the brains of the ABC News Executives when this decision was made.
ABC is a broadcast network, licensed by the FCC and therefore responsible to the public. They know they must provide the other side of the argument. However, when they do it is the issue. The public must weigh in on this one-sided practice. There is one sure way to ensure ABC News hears them: Walk or drive to your nearest ABC Television affiliate and request their "public file" during business hours. Then put your comment about this evening's broadcast and the lack of opposing views in the file. Send a copy to the FCC in Washington. Then find out when that station's license comes up for renewal. I'm not asking for a reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, but if you, the public, don't like what ABC News is doing, it is your right to complain to the FCC.
Make your voice heard and I guarantee that this will be the last time this happens.
Ellen Ratner joined Fox News Channel as a contributor in October 1997. Currently, Ratner serves as chief political correspondent and news analyst for "Talk Radio News Service" where she analyzes events, reports breaking news, and provides lively interviews with newsmakers in government and entertainment. She is founder of "Goats for the Old Goat." Over the last three years, donations have been made to acquire goats for liberated slaves who were returning to South Sudan. More than 7,000 goats have been donated to the people of South Sudan to provide sustainable sustenance for their families and a means to begin their lives again.