Tell ABC: Include Single-Payer in Healthcare Debate

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Steve Rendall
srendall@fair.org
Tel: 212-633-6700 x13

Tell ABC: Include Single-Payer in Healthcare Debate

Network says June 24 special will cover 'all sides'

WASHINGTON - ABC News
is preparing for a day of in-depth of coverage on President Barack
Obama's healthcare proposal on June 24, broadcasting from the White
House and including an interview with Obama on Good Morning America
and an hour-long Primetime "town hall" discussion featuring Obama and
questions from audience members. Concerns have been raised about
whether ABC's special programming
will convey a full spectrum of opinion on the healthcare reform
debate--but the views perhaps most likely to be left out have so far
gotten little attention.

Complaints from the right about ABC's
plans have gotten widespread play. The Republican National Committee,
which attempted to buy ad time during the specials and was rejected,
condemned "ABC's astonishing decision to exclude opposing voices on this critical issue" (Real Clear Politics, 6/17/09).

ABC said that its policy against advocacy ads was longstanding (FoxNews.com, 6/18/09); in a statement on ABCNews.com (6/16/09), the network declared: "ABC News prides itself on covering all sides of important issues.... In the end, no one watching, listening to, or reading ABC News will lack for an understanding of all sides of these important questions."

FAIR certainly hopes ABC stands
by its claims and covers all sides of the healthcare debate--and there
is little doubt that the network will bring up the complaints about a
"government-run healthcare system" that the GOP has made.

More likely to be excluded is any discussion of a single-payer healthcare plan, which polls
show is favored by a majority of both the public and physicians.
However, corporate media have demonstrated a profound aversion to
talking about single-payer.

A recent FAIR study (3/6/09)
showed that of hundreds of newspaper and broadcast stories on
healthcare reform in the week leading up to Obama's March 5 healthcare
summit, only five included the views of single-payer advocates; none of
those appeared on television. A Nexis search of all ABC News
transcripts for the past six months shows that single-payer has been
mentioned only four times, three of them by opponents dismissing the
idea (3/5/09, 6/14/09, 6/14/09) and once in a reference to Medicare by
liberal economist Paul Krugman (5/31/09).

The New York Times (6/19/09) recently illustrated the general media sentiment about single-payer and the healthcare debate:

Seeking broad popular support, the president
and congressional leaders have played between the 40-yard lines of the
health policy spectrum. Those who favor a single-payer, government-run
insurance system have been marginalized, along with those who would
unleash the system to the free market.

Of course, the decision to marginalize single-payer is a decision to avoid playing between the 40-yard lines. The Times
and the rest of the corporate media are the ones who have decided that
single-payer doesn't have "broad popular support," regardless of what
their polling tells them (FAIR Blog, 6/19/09). And that makes healthcare "reform" more possible than it was under the Clinton administration, explains CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen (3/5/09; FAIR Action Alert, 3/12/09):

Fifteen years ago you sometimes heard--actually
you heard quite a bit--people saying: "Let's have a single-payer system
like in Canada. The government is going to be the health insurer for
everybody." You don’t hear that as much as you used to. So more people
are on the same page more than they once were.

According to an ABC press release (Note, 6/15/09), the town hall discussion will be moderated by Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer, but also taking part will be ABC
medical editor Dr. Timothy Johnson, who "will focus on different ideas
for how to fix the system and how proposed changes will impact our
already fragile economy."

In the past (ABC, 10/21/03), Johnson has provided insightful coverage of single-payer, debunking myths and explaining its broad support and benefits. ABC and Johnson should be sure to include such insight in their coverage of Obama's healthcare plan on June 24.

ACTION: Urge ABC to include a discussion of the single-payer plan in its coverage of the healthcare debate on June 24.

CONTACT:
ABC News Primetime
Webform: http://abcnews.go.com/Site/page?id=3271346&cat=Primetime

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FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986. We work to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints.

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