U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Calif) wonders why a Time Warner Cable lobbyist is emailing Republicans in the House and Senate, telling them “next time you think about helping broadcasters” they should first read a Weekly Standard article taking NBC News to task for its weeklong look at the Affordable Care Act. “Could you please explain why this email was sent and what purpose it serves?” Waxman, the ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, said this afternoon in a terse letter addressed to TWC CEO Glenn Fritt.
The Weekly Standard article to which the unnamed lobbyist linked was called “NBC Launches Week of Programming to ‘Help’ Obamacare Succeed.” The Weekly Standard appears to have looked askance at an announcement NBC News emailed around last week – we got a copy too – detailing plans for this week’s “Ready or Not, the New Healthcare Law” — a “multi-screen experience to help Americans get the most out of the Affordable Care Act.” NBC’s coverage included results from a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, conducted in conjunction with NBC News, that details public opinion and awareness about the ACA. And, NBC Nightly News aired an interview between NBC News’ Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Doctors, nurses, employers and patients all have a stake in how the Affordable Care Act will play out,” said Snyderman. “The sweeping federal law is confusing. We will clarify parts of the law, explain how states differ and tackle many of the challenges associated with it. We are committed to answering questions and serving as a guide as this legislation is implemented.”
In his letter, Waxman informed Britt, so he could pass it along to the lobbyist, the broadcast networks have a public service obligation to inform the American public. Therefore, he explained, they “should be informing viewers about the new options for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.” “On the other hand,” Waxman continued, “ a cable company should not be pandering to the worst instincts of the reckless Republican extremists that seem to be running the House of Representatives.”
Time Warner Cable, as you know, recently found itself with the fuzzy end of the lollipop in its drawn-out retransmission battle with CBS – a broadcast network. And the cable industry in general hopes to sway Congress to change retransmission consent rules, which they argue, play faves with broadcasters.
That said, a rep for Time Warner Cable told Deadline she could not explain specifically what is the “help” to which the lobbyist referred in the email. And TWC says in a statement about the email and Waxman’s letter, “We are looking into the situation and will respond directly to the Congressman.” NBC declined to comment.