By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Why NECN didn’t carry Obama’s speech

I watched President Obama’s speech at Northeastern University online Sunday, so I didn’t realize until later that New England Cable News hadn’t carried it. I e-mailed NECN spokesman Skip Perham, and here is his response:

Over the life of the Obama administration we have consistently carried his policy speeches live.

We made the decision not to cover Martha Coakley’s rally featuring President Obama because it was a pure political event. We made the same decision about candidate Scott Brown’s event in Worcester.

If you take a look at NECN’s Sunday-afternoon schedule, you’ll see that it says “Paid Programming.”

Now, there’s an old cliché that elections have consequences. One of those consequences is that a speech by the president of the United States in your own back yard is by definition more newsworthy than a speech by Curt Schilling.

Was Obama’s speech purely political? Yes. But if NECN wants to amend its guidelines so that it will be able to carry all live speeches by the president within 10 miles of its headquarters, I don’t think station executives will have to inconvenience themselves more than once or twice a decade.

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  1. O-FISH-L

    It was carried live on CNN and FNC. What more do we need?

  2. Harrybosch

    Wow. If the President coming to town to deliver a speech (on any subject) isn’t news . . . then I don’t know what is.

    Wonder if they’d have covered Kennedy’s blatantly political motorcade.

  3. Michael Pahre

    NECN was probably running a “Greatest Hits of Style Boston and Open Book Club” paid programming feature hosted by Tom Finneran and Billy Bulger.

    The real reason is obvious, even though NECN wouldn’t cop to it: they didn’t want to interrupt paid programming and thereby lose out on a few, needed bucks.

  4. George Williams

    Come on guys; this ws a political visit, period. he did not say anything new or reveal any new plans. The only reason he was here was because “Marcia” Coakley’s campaign is in trouble. That is hardly a newsworthy event.

  5. Nial Liszt

    Only if they temporarily change the call letters to NECS (New England Cable Shills). Let them buy the time. How much can the political rate be at NECN?

  6. Kevin

    If the President came to Boston to speak at a fundraiser for Barney Frank, should it be covered live. It is just as political as what he did for Coakley

  7. Al

    I have NECN, not CNN or FNC, that’s why we needed it. Also, is this a practice that goes back to the earlier days of NECN, or are we seeing some influence of the Comcast ownership here?

  8. Harrybosch

    “this [was] a political visit, period.”

    As was Kennedy’s visit to Texas.

  9. Peter Porcupine

    Mr. Bosch – WAS Pres. Kenendy’s visit carried live? I am old enough to remember the day, but that aspect escapes me.

    Usually, when a Chief Executive comes to give support, they manage to have a non-political cover story. Clinton was especially good at this (remembering his visit to Worcester).

    If George Bush had come to Boston to stump for Kerry Healey – would you have been upset if NECN failed to carry the speech live, preempting regular programming?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Peter Porcupine: I expect NECN to give me live coverage of significant regional news. A presidential speech qualifies, regardless of who the president is.

  10. Harrybosch

    “WAS Pres. Kenendy’s visit carried live? I am old enough to remember the day, but that aspect escapes me.”

    Thanks, Porcupine. Actually, I think very little attention was paid to Kennedy’s visit because of the political nature of it.

    For example, I think only one outlet had video of the speech he gave the night before in (I think it was) San Antonio. Course that turned out to be one of his last speeches. Newsworthy, no? Even if it didn’t seem so at the time.

    And that’s my point. News can happen anywhere, and there’s no bigger news than when the President of the United States does anything at all.

    Because you just never know . . .

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Harrybosch and @Peter Porcupine: Live coverage of anything was pretty rare in 1963. It cost a fortune.

  11. Harrybosch

    “Live coverage of anything was pretty rare in 1963. It cost a fortune.”

    Indeed, which makes NECN’s decision even more (I was gonna go with “shameful” but I’ll just go with) puzzling.

  12. O-FISH-L

    Al, you didn’t miss much, except Obama forgetting what state he was in as he attempted to introduce Senator Kerry. The tel-e-prompter must have flickered. Hardly worth spending the extra five bucks to upgrade to a package that includes CNN and FNC. Trust me, if anything newsworthy had happened, NECN would have cut away from David Oreck and his vacuum.

  13. mike from norwell

    Dan, think you’re reaching here. Obama was here for a clearly political speech; if Coakley’s campaign wanted to fork up the dollars to buy the time, fine. But i don’t think they had any reason to carry the Northeastern address at all.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @mike from norwell: We are talking about a 24-hour regional news station. They literally had nothing better to do.

  14. O-FISH-L

    Dan, does NU risk its tax-exempt status by holding the Coakley-Obama, clearly partisan rally? Just curious.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Fish: No, and here’s why.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Fish: Also, why is it the first instinct of conservatives to censor? Do you have any idea how many campaign events are held on college campuses? They’re one of the few venues that have the space and that can be scrounged up on short notice. When I was covering the South Carolina Republican primary in 2000, McCain’s biggest event was at the University of South Carolina in Spartanburg.

      We might as well complain about Brown’s rally in Worcester being held on public property. It makes as much sense. Gee, maybe the city ought to lose its federal funding, eh?

  15. PG

    I think it’s simple. NECN was scared of all the hate emails and calls they would have gotten from the same right wing crowd that floods every article on the election with hundreds of insane comments.

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