March 10th, 2011
June 25, 2009
The Business & Media Institute
By Jeff Poor
Call this a teachable moment, but even with ABC’s best-laid plans to kickstart the debate about health care reform and not allow the “Prescription for America” special to become an “infomercial,” as many have complained – the president spent more than twice as much time as his questioners vaguely answering or not answering the questions asked of him. But the network consistently presented the event as part of the need to fix a “broken system.” When asked, every one of the 164 hand-picked audience members said they felt that health care needed to be changed.
President Barack Obama appeared on the ABC network in a town hall format broadcasted from the White House on two separate programs on June 24 – an hour-long primetime special during the 10 p.m. Eastern Time hour and later on the “Nightline” program that aired during the 11:30 p.m. Eastern Time hour.
ABC’s “Good Morning America” co-host Diane Sawyer billed the event as “a serious conversation” about the issue and she moderated the discussion along with her former “GMA” partner, now “World News” anchor Charles Gibson. ABC medical editor Dr. Timothy Johnson, a long-time network advocate for universal health care plans going back to Hillarycare, also participated in the event.
While Obama had to field some difficult questions — from the audience and ABC — he faced no Republican critics of his proposals. The network also allowed him to dominate the program with long-winded and vague answers. Out of the 75 minutes the network dedicated over the two programs (commercials excluded), the president managed to take 60 percent of that time: 45 minutes to give 19 vague responses – not exactly the “dialogue” advertised by ABC.