NBC nightly News anchorman Tom Brokaw narrated a one-hour Dateline special, “Take the Money and Run.” Brokaw contended that CEOs were making millions of dollars through stock option schemes and other maneuvers at a time when investors were losing their shirts. Brokaw contended that CEOs were making too much money compared to the average worker. But that could apply to Brokaw.
Brokaw, however, is not the highest paid star at NBC. That designation belongs to Katie Couric, cohost of the ”Today” show. She is reportedly the highest paid television journalist with an estimated annual salary of $13 million to $15 million. Brokaw reportedly earns $7 million a year, with stock options that could bring it close to $8 million a year. Brokaw won a salary increase, over his previous $4 million to $5 million, at a time when his viewing audience has been on the decline. In the last 30 years, viewership of NBC’s evening news has declined from 13 percent of the total homes watching to 7.7 percent.
About a week after Brokaw railed against CEOs and their stock options, Brokaw’s parent company, General Electric, announced that it was changing how it accounts for stock options. G.E. said executives would no longer be allowed to take profits immediately after cashing in options, and that top officers would have to hold, for at least a year, some of the shares they get after exercising options. G.E. also said it would begin to account for the value of stock options granted to employees as an expense, thereby reducing reported earnings.
Speaking of high salaries, an NBC television program, West Wing, has been racked by controversy over the salaries paid to the stars. Martin Sheen, who plays the role of president, is getting $300,000 per episode. But another actor, Rob Lowe, is leaving the show because he is only getting $75,000 a show. Other actors are getting $70,000 per show. There are 22 episodes of the show in a season, which means that Sheen is pulling down over $6 million a year.
Asked about Lowe’s decision to leave, Sheen said, “We knew there were some contract disputes, but I never get into that with a fellow actor because frankly it’s none of my business. Everyone’s entitled to go for whatever they can get. I did, certainly.” But it was supposed to be his business when he marched for justice for strawberry workers several years ago. Sheen teamed up with the AFL-CIO to demand higher wages for members of the United Farm Workers. Sheen and AFL-CIO President John Sweeney even meddle in foreign policy issues. They signed an October 2, 2000 appeal for a world free from nuclear weapons. Sheen was arrested when he joined radical activists in trying to shut down a U.S. Army institute that trains Latin American soldiers. Sheen claimed the soldiers were being trained in torture techniques.
The public is being tortured by the likes of Tom Brokaw and Martin Sheen claiming to be “for the people” when they are multimillionaires. They should team up to do an NBC special on high salaries in the industry that pays them so handsomely. Katie Couric could narrate it.