Nate Jackson / June 1, 2017

USAA’s Media Advertising Kerfuffle

The company reversed its decision to pull ads from Sean Hannity’s show — both decisions were a response to PR trouble.

The war against Fox News escalated this week when USAA pulled its advertising on Sean Hannity’s show, before reinstating it after protests. The whole kerfuffle could be swept under the rug were it not for a couple of points worth making.

First, the background: Hannity for a time stuck to a discredited report about DNC staffer’s murder being related to the WikiLeaks dump of DNC emails last year. We too initially noted the suspicions first reported on Fox, but corrected the record immediately when the investigator retracted his statement. Hannity wasn’t so easily convinced, so Media Matters, a left-wing media-smearing outfit, called him “a bigot, a sexist and a conspiracy theorist,” and organized a boycott of 150 of his advertisers. USAA succumbed to that pressure, before reversing course after a counter effort led by Brent Bozell’s conservative Media Research Center.

In an email letter to members explaining the reinstatement, USAA said, “As some of you may know, we have recently come under scrutiny for pulling ads from ‘Hannity’ on Fox News and other opinion-based programs, including: ‘The Rachel Maddow Show’ and ‘Hardball with Chris Matthews’ on MSNBC and ‘The Lead’ with Jake Tapper on CNN. Our long-standing advertising policy has been not to advertise on opinion-based shows to avoid any suggestion of bias or support for one set of views over another.”

Obviously, USAA isn’t following its own policy by advertising on opinion-based shows. But as USAA put it, “The lines between news and editorial are increasingly blurred.” Indeed they are. And we’d also note that, just based on USAA’s list of shows, it’s advertising on leftist shows over conservative ones at a three-to-one clip. That’s not a comprehensive list by any means, nor does it reflect dollars spent, but it might be the real story for USAA’s members.

Finally, when the knives were out for Fox News’ Bill O'Reilly last month, our own Mark Alexander observed:

> Regardless of what you think about O'Reilly, the real story here is the calculation by the [New York] Times that exposing O'Reilly would result in advertisers boycotting the show — and the network. Thus, Fox News, which is first and foremost devoted to maintaining market share (a.k.a. advertising revenues), had to fold its hand. Fox already has to blast now-ubiquitous “Fox News Alert” banners, ad nauseum, in order to keep its viewers interested through their 24/7 news cycle. As that tactic wears thin, so will ad revenue, and the network could not afford to keep O'Reilly on.

> While this episode publicly exposes the power and influence that advertisers have in regard to who is delivering the news, the question every consumer of news from any commercial outlet should ask is this: How often do editors make decisions about what news to cover, and how, based on their concern for how advertisers will respond? The answer: Every day, all day.

That’s every bit as true for Hannity, Maddow, Matthews and Tapper as it was for O'Reilly. Worth remembering when watching advertising-based TV, as opposed to reading advertising free content here at The Patriot Post.

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