Alternate title: ABC prepares George Stephanopoulos to moderate all GOP primary debates. The New York Times reports today that NBC may have a partner for the Hillary Clinton miniseries which RNC chair Reince Priebus demanded to be canceled as a condition of sanctioning Republican presidential primary debates on the network. The miniseries tentatively scheduled to air in 2016 may be produced by Fox Television Studios, a subsidiary of News Corp and a sister to NBC’s competitor Fox News:
While NBC has come under heavy fire, especially from Republican critics, for agreeing to broadcast the series, the project may wind up being produced by another company: Fox Television Studios, the sister company of the conservative favorite, Fox News.
Leslie Oren, a spokesman for FTVS, as the studio is known, confirmed that NBC is in “the early stages” of discussions to bring the Fox unit in as the production company on the as yet unnamed mini-series, which will star Diane Lane as Mrs. Clinton.
“There is no deal yet,” Ms. Oren said. But should a deal be completed, FTVS would become the distributor of the film internationally. FTVS is the production arm of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment group.
It would also become something of an odd partner in what has become a contentious project, especially after Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, threatened to keep presidential debates involving Republican candidates off both NBC and its news channel MSNBC, if it went ahead with what he called a “promotional movie about the life of Hillary Clinton.”
The Atlantic wonders what Priebus, who appears occasionally on Fox News, will have to say about this partnership should it come to fruition. Connor Simpson includes Media Matters’ David Brock in the BOLO list:
How Brock and Preibus feel about this latest development is still a mystery, but it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out. Preibus appears on Fox News from time to time.
Carter is certainly right about one thing, regardless of whether this deal comes to fruition: an NBC and Fox partnership sure would be odd. These are the entertainment arms of each company, sure, but the news and political arms are mortal enemies. MSNBC is the left’s answer to Fox News’s conservative bent. To have the two companies team up, even if it’s the non-news sides, is akin to watching two enemies fall into bed together.
Brock’s complaints about the NBC (and CNN) decision were that the focus on Hillary would provide a disadvantage to other Democratic candidates, and that NBC might “adopt [the] ideological lens” of the GOP in its production. At the time, I suggested that was hardly a big concern, but having Fox produce the miniseries will certainly give Brock and the Left more ammunition on that score.
And that may well be NBC’s intent. The broad criticism of the decision may have them looking for cover against charges that they are basically running a prime-time advertisement for Hillary Clinton. What better cover can they get than to have Rupert Murdoch’s empire produce the miniseries? When accusations of hagiography get tossed around, NBC and Comcast can simply point to Fox and say that any such issues should be directed to the production and not the broadcaster. It will be a little more difficult to lay charges of Hillary bias at the feet of Fox.
Meanwhile, that narrows Priebus’ options if he still wants broadcast networks to carry the debates. He’s left with CBS and Scott Pelley, or ABC and George Stephanopoulos. If you’ve forgotten Pelley’s performance in primary debates, let me remind you that he sees himself as a participant (an uninformed one at that) rather than a moderator, which is a big part of the problem with the current debate format. Stephanopoulos not only used to work for the Clintons, he also teed up the contraceptive issue for Barack Obama in the January 2012 New Hampshire debate. If these are our last two options under Priebus’ ultimatum, then it’s an even better push to taking the debates in-house at the RNC and letting C-SPAN run them live.