NBC is receiving plenty of criticism from the media for its decision to schedule a town hall with President Donald Trump at exactly the same time a previously scheduled town hall by rival network ABC with Joe Biden.
Former Today host Katie Couric tweeted out her criticism of her former employer Wednesday.
“Having dueling town halls is bad for democracy-voters should be able to watch both and I don’t think many will. This will be good for Trump because people like to watch his unpredictability. This is a bad decision.”
Having dueling town halls is bad for democracy-voters should be able to watch both and I don’t think many will. This will be good for Trump because people like to watch his unpredictability. This is a bad decision. #vote
— Katie Couric (@katiecouric) October 14, 2020
Aspen Digital executive director Vivian Schiller, formerly the chief digital officer at NBC News, expressed her disappointment on Twitter, calling it “shameful.”
The point of a news organization is to serve the public. This is the opposite. @NBCNews could literally run this any other day, or any other time. Shameful. (Disclosure: I am a former NBC News exec) https://t.co/I1CrBq3Y3H
— Vivian Schiller (@vivian) October 14, 2020
CNN’s Don Lemon also bitterly complained about NBC’s decision.
“How does it help the American people? How does that help the electorate by putting those two people on at the same time and making people choose from one to the other?” Lemon told colleague Chris Cuomo their nightly handoff. “This is an outright embarrassing ratings ploy on behalf of NBC. And I am shocked and surprised that they would allow the president of the United States to do their programming and manipulate them into doing this. This is embarrassing.”
There are also reports that NBC employees are angry at the network.
I've heard from over a dozen NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC sources (talent and staff) and the frustration with and anger toward their employer for scheduling a town hall against Biden is palpable.
— Yashar Ali ? (@yashar) October 14, 2020
Even though many critics have blamed NBC for caving into Trump and trying to boost their ratings, that may not be the case as a CNN reported on their website.
Executives at NBC expected that ABC would schedule Biden at 9 p.m., since ABC’s Trump town hall had started at 9, and it seemed logical. NBC’s planners were eyeing the 8 p.m. time slot since that’s when their Biden event took place.
But ABC announced on Sunday morning that Biden would be on from 8 to 9:30 p.m. on Thursday. ABC’s reasoning: It was planning on an hour of pre-debate coverage at 8 p.m. that night. So the news division already had blocked off the time.
At this point, it really doesn’t matter what NBC’s reasoning was as they can’t alter their schedule which is based on Trump’s availability, but it will force people to either choose between the Biden and Trump town halls — plus the NLCS game between the Braves and Dodgers — or set up multiple screens to watch them simultaneously.
Maybe ABC and NBC can adjust the format so that Joe Biden can watch Trump’s town hall and respond and vice versa.