Hey Nielsen Families! Let's Boycott O.J.!
This is the day media decided to explode locally and nationally, what with Clear Channel's decision to sell off 448 radio stations, the Tampa Tribune admitting its star Al-Arian reporter has left the story after starting a romantic relationship with the one of the prosecutor, news I reported yesterday of WFLA-Ch. 8 being criticized for airing a video press release as news and the arrival in St. Petersburg tonight of Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler, in town to speak at the annual awards ceremony convened by the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists, which I lead.
I don't have much time today, but I wanted to write about another media story exploding today: Fox's decision to present an interview with O.J. Simpson to coincide with his upcoming book If I Did It.
I wish there was a way to write about this without adding to the media buzz already surrounding this awful mess. We all know the dynamic: media and TV critics write columns condemning the show, anchors on the cable newschannels convene talk segments with experts condemning the program (I'll be doing one, CNN's Reliable Sources, at 10:30 a.m. Sunday) and then a huge audience turns up to watch the train wreck commence.
It's an orgy of synergy. O.J.'s book is published by ReganBooks and his so-called interview (conducted by his publisher, Judith Regan) airs over two nights on the Fox network. Guess what company owns both entities? Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. (the show is kicking up such a stench that even Bill O'Reilly tried to distance himself from it last night, claiming "Fox Broadcasting has nothing to do with the Fox News Channel." Well, except for the fact that the same guy signs everybody's checks.
I know my little blog is less than a drop in the big media bucket on this issue. But I want to make a plea here, for my own sanity as a media commentator, to any household whose viewing habits are monitored by the ratings company Nielsen Media Research.
PLEASE DO NOT WATCH THIS SHOW.
Doesn't matter if you or I stay away from it, if our viewing habits aren't tabulated by the folks who count ratings. This is the first time I've ever written such a recommendation, because it feels a little like cooking the books -- changing the viewership sample to affect the popularity of a show.
But if this television train wreck actually draws ratings, it will only encourage the networks to do more. If you thought Dateline's To Catch a Predator series was skeevy, imagine what sorts of freakizoids the networks will stick in front of a camera if their O.J. project breaks the ratings bank?
So, Nielsen families, our viewing fate is in your hands. I've met enough of you to know that most of you take your responsiblities very seriously. Do us a favor, and give Fox a reason to never try anything this sordid again.