Monday, February 9, 2009

Is Big Brother Watching?

I just watched The Insider on television last night. If you haven't seen it, the movie stars a pre-Gladiator Russell Crowe as an insider for a big tobacco company. He agrees to go on 60 Minutes to talk about all the evil that goes on in that industry.

The issue of the movie is that after Crowe's character goes through all sorts of hell after interviewing with 60 Minutes (death threats, harassment, divorce), CBS corporate pulls the plug on the interview because the corporate bigwigs don't want the tobacco company to sue them and drive stock prices down. So the moral of the story is that apparently corporate big wigs now control the news. It's very paranoia inducing and I'm sure dozens of conspiracy theories were created after the movie hit the theaters.

Maybe it was the movie waking up that cynical part of brain, but I get the same "big brother" vibes from ESPN these days. Scott Van Pelt was suspended for ripping into baseball commish Bud Selig about his otherworldly salary last year ($18.5 million).

If Van Pelt had used a curse word or had some other blatant violation that could cost the station money, then I would understand a suspension. But Van Pelt was punished for speaking too harshly of Selig, who incidentally is presiding over an 8 year, $2.4 billion broadcast deal with ESPN.

So apparently ESPN personalities should stick with those witty 30 second bursts they have on Sportscenter before showing two minutes of clips while they act all toady towards LeBron James. Unless you're
name is Stuart Scott, then you need to go from proper English Stuart to ghetto fab Stuart ("Cleveland arrived in New York yesterday to complete a three game road trip throughout the Hudson River Valley......ahem.....LeBron James was in the hizzzouuse beotch!")

Why does ESPN even bother to have radio shows then? The whole point of a radio show is to have more creative freedom than you would on an hour long television show where you have 30 seconds to write a lead and then show highlights. Seriously, does anyone bother to listen to a radio show that is only sports scores and updates for three straight hours?

Van Pelt and others like him work a gazillion hours a day and talk sports all day every day. If they want to pop off about something, they have as much right to do so as anyone. In fact, it makes t
hem sound like an actual sports fan and not just a sports computer. Let'em play ref!

If Van Pelt or any other ESPN anchor goes too far on their radio show, you can bet the court of public opinion will strike back. Then ESPN corporate can get involved and dole out a punishment. But I don't want my radio content determined by bean counters and corporate types. I've met plenty of those, they're generally smart, dull, self-absorbed, and more worried about their wallets than entertainment.

Sounds like a great person to determine radio show content doesn't it?


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