Viacom networks MTV, BET and CMT are giving an hour of free air time to President Obama less than three weeks before the midterm elections.
The so-called “A Conversation with President Obama” will be live and commercial-free on six Viacom networks at 4 p.m. on Thursday. The networks will not give equal time to a Republican before the election, according to a spokeswoman.
MTV denies that the Obama hour of TV is political, despite the timing, weeks before the midterm elections.
“We’re not giving an hour of free time to the president to freely express his views. We’re hosting a town hall with 250 young people to ask questions of the president,”Viacom spokeswoman Kelly McAndrew said to HUMAN EVENTS.
“This is not a campaign appearance. This is a town hall discussion.”
The White House conceived of the concept and asked for the commercial-free TV time, according to Viacom.
“MTV and BET had ‘asks’ into the White House to do something with the president,” explained McAndrew. She said that the White House “came back to both networks and said, ‘Hey we could do something. Would you consider doing something together?’”
“We said, ‘Great! Let’s see if we can get some more networks who would like to join in.’ And not only did BET, we have CENTRIC, Tr3s, mtvU, that will all be airing this particular town hall live,” said McAndrew.
Viacom is adamant that the across-the-board network airing of the Obama hour is not political, and therefore does not demand equal time for a Republican.
“We are not giving a full hour of free air time. We are hosting a town hall for 250 individuals to ask questions of the president of the United States,” the spokeswoman said repeatedly.
MTV asserts that the show will be balanced by the questions that may be asked by the audience of young people who “provide some very different perspectives.”
“We think that our audience is interested in a lot of different topics and hold varying viewpoints on all of these different topics. And this is the forum to provide an opportunity for young people to express those thoughts,” said McAndrew.
Asked if the audience questions are submitted in advance, McAndrew said “absolutely not.”
However, when asked if the audience is being pre-screened, McAndrew said yes, but to achieve their version of diversity.“We’re talking to the individuals to be sure that we have an extremely diverse audience because we don’t want a single view audience,” explained McAndrew of the vetting process.
Does Viacom and its networks have any intention of holding a town hall for a Republican?
“There’s nothing on our current schedule,” McAndrew responded. She added that, “we’ve hosted plenty of town halls and debates in the past.”
When questioned for specifics, she said, “I know we hosted the one with John McCain on the most recent presidential election. That was in 2007. That’s what I know right off the top of my head.”
Asked if MTV or other Viacom networks had given an hour to any Republicans in the past three years, McAndrew responded, “You know, sittin’ here right now, I’d have to go back and look at the history. We have been doing this a very long time across many of our network. Comedy Central has a very well-known program that they host around lots of elections.”
So, what’s the name of the “well known program” on Comedy Central around the elections?
“The… uh…ohh …what is it called? … I’ll have to get you the name,” stuttered Viacom’s spokeswoman. “We have ‘Choose or Lose’… gosh… I don’t know the year that started. We’ve had a lot of different things. I mean gosh, just Google that and figure that out.”