Published February 13, 2014
I imagine the only thing worse than being forced to watch CNN inside an airport terminal is being forced to watch it in a doctor’s office.
So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered a Michigan health care facility, funded by federal tax dollars, blocked Fox News Channel from its waiting room television sets.
The president of Family Health Care directed staff to block Fox News after a board member complained about our network’s coverage of the Affordable Care Act, an employee told me.
“The board member complained that patients were turning the channel to Fox News,” said the employee who asked not to be identified for reasons related to the unemployment line. “They are pro-ObamaCare and they felt (Fox’s) stance did not mesh with our stance.”
Family Health Care is a private, non-profit business that operates community health centers in five Michigan towns. According to the employee, the health centers have ObamaCare facilitators on site to help people apply for the program.
The employee provided me a copy of an internal office memorandum that confirms the home of “Fair & Balanced” news is blocked.
“A while ago Kathy Sather had asked all sites not to air the Fox News channel on the public waiting room TV’s,” wrote a network manager in an email to staff members on Feb. 4. “Today I blocked the channel on both the medical and dental waiting rooms.”
Sather is president of Family Health Care.
“I did check with staff and they mentioned often the visitors are changing channels on the TV’s,” the network manager wrote. “I now have both TV’s blocking that channel, so the public won’t be able to change the station. If anyone asks for the TV to be put on that channel please let them know we cannot air that channel.”
That edict didn’t set well with the employee who contacted me.
“I feel like we are being manipulated,” the employee said. “Who are they to say you can’t watch something? If the patient wants to put on Fox they should be able to put on Fox.”
It’s almost impossible to believe, right? Surely, there must have been some sort of misunderstanding. What could possibly be so offensive about Fox News? I mean sure, Bob Beckel is known to use a few “colorful metaphors,” but he’s just a lovable curmudgeon. And who doesn’t love the Factor Word of the Day? We are a pithier nation because of the No Spin Zone.
So I reached out to Sather who promptly confirmed that Steve and Elizabeth and Brian were no longer welcome in the waiting rooms.
She said the health center had a responsibility to do everything humanly possible to “ensure a positive patient experience in the waiting room.”
“Simply put, several complaints have been brought to my attention asking that we not air the Fox News channel in our televised waiting areas,” Sather wrote. “I responded by addressing the issue promptly asking that the channel be blocked in response to those complaints.”
I can’t imagine a patient finding a more positive experience than watching Fox News Channel.
A few years ago my mother was hospitalized. Because of her medical condition she was unable to talk. One day I received a telephone call from my mother’s nurse. She told me that mom was thrashing about and throwing things at the television set. She couldn’t figure out why she was so rattled.
We went through a list of possibilities, until I suggested it might have something to do with the television show she was watching.
“Well,” the nurse replied, “When I walked in she was watching Fox & Friends, but after she fell asleep I changed the channel.”
Which channel, I asked?
“CNN,” she said.
“Sweet mercy,” I hollered into the phone. “Change it back to Fox News! And hurry – before she breaks the television set.”
My mother was not a big fan of CNN. She said that was one of the reasons she hated to fly. But she sure loved Fox News – especially when Shep would tell her what the game day temperature was in Oxford.
Back in Michigan, the employee told me Sather’s explanation is a bunch of “baloney.”
The employee said that there were no complaints from patients – only a board member of the organization.
“It’s all very politically correct,” the employee said. “This complaint thing is baloney. They don’t want anyone to get the idea that affordable care is not good.”
Surely there must be some way to reach a compromise. Maybe they could blur the Fox News logo. Or perhaps they could bleep out all the conservative words?
My suggestions fell on deaf ears.
“We are a health care provider, not a news analyst,” Sather wrote to me.”We are in no position to comment on the quality of news programming. We simply responded to a patient request.”
As it now stands, patients at federally-funded Family Health Care will not be allowed to watch Fox News Channel in their waiting rooms.
And you won’t believe what the health center is forcing patients to watch.
“CNN,” the employee told me. “Ugh.”