Media Triple Play

I did Jeff Santos’ radio show again Wednesday morning. The podcast is here. My antics start about 35 minutes in. You can slide the marker approximately halfway through and then guesstimate from there.

In other non-me news, Chris draws attention to the campaign to get Rick Scott’s fear-mongering infomercial off NBC:

Progressive health care reform groups demanded on Thursday that Washington’s NBC television affiliate refuse to air a 30-minute infomercial funded by a conservative group opposed to creating a public insurance plan.

The Service Employees International Union sent a letter to NBC4, arguing that the station has a responsibility to pull the documentary-style commercial paid for by Conservatives for Patients’ Rights. The ad, set to run Sunday after “Meet the Press,” “will be false, deceitful, and a distortion,” the union’s attorney wrote in the letter.

The SEIU has not seen the ad, but is drawing the conclusion from CPR’s record of running “demonstrably false” ads. The station has the duty to protect the public from misleading advertising, the letter argues.

If the ad is aired and does contain falsehoods, CPR could face a fine from the Federal Communications Commission, said Levana Layendecker, the online campaigns director for Health Care for America Now, a coalition pushing to create a public insurance plan.

The coalition, Democracy for America and the SEIU e-mailed their supporters, asking them to sign on to another letter that urges NBC and “Meet the Press” to refuse to air the infomercial. The groups plan to send another e-mail Friday to Washington-area supporters, rallying them to call the station with the same message.

Layendecker said the commercial would demean the venerable public-affairs show’s brand. At the very least, the station should run a crawler under the ad, indicating that the program is a paid advertisement and not endorsed by NBC, she said.

And Think Progress has a new video up called “Who is Rick Scott?” It draws from his past at the center of the Columbia/HCA hospital fraud scandal in the late 90s. Take a look:

Your Ad Here

In my former life as a TV peep, ratings were king. Not for me. I didn’t care. But for the men and women (and they were mostly men) above my pay grade. Ratings are truly all TV executives care about. It’s why the news covers what it covers. The networks chase each other to get the most viewership because more viewers means more advertising dollars. And within that frame, the coveted demographic is 25-54 yr olds. They’re the ones who spend the most money.

Take a look at what the spenders are watching. The numbers (courtesy of mediabistro) are for Tuesday the 26th:

Speaking of advertising, and this JUST happened once again so forgive me for venting, but when our website says we don’t respond to solicitations for advertising…we don’t. Don’t call me and say, “I know you say you don’t respond to solicitations, but…” There is no but. The note is not a formality. I had it put there to stop you from bugging me. It could not be more clear. You’re not the one exception, and thinking you are will get you the full wrath of my frustration. You’ve been warned.

UPDATE: I just got a second advertising solicitation in the time it’s taken me to finalize this post. This one was sneaky. The business guy tried to frame a meeting around a reporter’s faux editorial interest. Really shady. Also, totally ineffective. I’m still not interested, and it’s still not going to happen.

So, What’s News With You?

While Rick Scott and Ron Pollack reportedly plan to duke it out on Fox and Friends this morning (bizarre Families USA strategy if you ask me, but whatever), HCAN’s all over a great NYT piece about health care reform and advertising:

Supporters of a sweeping health care overhaul, like Health Care for America Now, a consumer group, say Congress must ensure coverage for everyone and create a new public insurance plan that would compete directly with private insurers.


By contrast, just south of the Canadian border, residents of Maine saw a television advertisement this week in favor of a health care overhaul, including the choice of a public insurance plan.

In this commercial, run by Health Care for America Now, Dr. Bethany Picker of Lewiston, Me., says, “Doctors and patients together should be making health care decisions, not the insurance companies.”

In the same advertisement, Dr. Karen Hover, a family physician in Bangor, Me., says, “It’s important that people have a choice between keeping the plan that they are happy with and choosing a public insurance plan.”

In the spot’s final seconds, a message appears on the screen urging viewers to register their support for a public health insurance option with Maine’s senators, Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins, both Republicans.

Jacki Schechner, a spokeswoman for Health Care for America Now, said the group had received more than $15 million, most of its money, from a foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, with the rest coming from labor unions, civil rights groups and other organizations represented on its steering committee.

The group has also run TV spots this month in six other states: Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, Nebraska, Oregon and Pennsylvania.

In these advertisements, Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, an anesthesiologist in Philadelphia, says Congress must create “a new public health insurance plan, with good benefits, at a price you can afford, so we’re no longer at the mercy of insurance companies.”

Ms. Schechner said her group had spent $200,000 on television advertisements in the last month.

“We are planning plenty more,” she said. “This is just the beginning.”

Goat Team!

Heard a story on NPR this morning about a bunch of hockey fans in Canada who are buying goats for families in Kenya. Here’s a Vancouver Sun write about how the cause got started:

Sitting around Sunday drinking beer, they were talking about growing their playoff goatees when Nagtegaal’s cousin Matthew Beimers — a teacher at Fraser Valley Christian high — reminded them about the goat sponsorship program the school supports, in which families in Sierra Leone receive a goat for every $25 donated.

“It wasn’t long before we moved from goatees to goats and we decided we’d buy a goat for a poor family for every game the Canucks win,” Nagtegaal said.

The group is hoping other fans will join in and pledge to buy a goat for each Canucks victory.

The Toronto Star:

Joel Nagtegaal, a university student from Langley, B.C., and some friends marked the Canucks playoff run by donating goats for each win to a village in Kenya.

The group came up with the goat-giving idea as a play on both the hockey custom of growing a beard or goatee, as well as the chant of “Go Canucks Go.”

Nagtegaal created an overwhelmingly popular Facebook group, which then spawned

As a result, 875 goats are now Africa-bound.

Nagtegaal says he has received an email from someone in Kenya and the most rewarding part of the experience has been hearing how the donations are changing lives.

He doesn’t know where the charity drive will go from here, although he is considering a “goat for the gold” campaign for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

NPR reported goatees to goats was the result of something getting lost in translation, but now looking through other news reports and the website, the cause seems a little more deliberate than mere drunken miscommunication.

Of course it’s a better story if a bunch of intoxicated hockey diehards accidentally committed to donating goats instead of semi-creative facial hair.

Your Homework Assignment

I make it a rule to read everything I find by Atul Gawande. I don’t always necessarily agree with or endorse his suggestions, but he is undeniably smart and a very good writer. His latest piece in The New Yorker talks about one of the most expensive health care markets in the country. It’s a town called McAllen, Texas, and Dr. Gawande sets out to find out exactly why that is and the lessons it has to teach us about health care reform. Read the whole piece here. It’s worth your time.

Politico Today x 2

Democrats, Republicans to address health care

Meanwhile, advocacy groups are organizing town halls, marches and roundtables. Health Care for America Now, a liberal advocacy group, is running a 60-second TV ad in Maine targeting Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, who are considered swing votes.

Nancy-Ann DeParle battles old, new critics

The leaked storyboards came just days after the president of the American Hospital Association said the White House misrepresented how much in savings six major healthcare organizations had agreed to find. On Friday, liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote about both episodes under the headline “Blue Double Cross.”

Jacki Schechner, a spokeswoman for Health Care for America Now, a coalition of progressive groups pushing for a public plan, said the insurance industry is not going to back off from its opposition, because it stands to lose too much money.

“They got their hand caught in the cookie jar, and now they’re going to eat carrots for a little while but continue to buy cookies. I think you can’t trust them one bit. This was well on its way to being produced, and they caught got,” she said of the videos. “They made it very clear that they oppose giving everybody a choice of a public health insurance plan.”

The Wordsd*ck

I’ve got plenty of words to describe Frank Luntz – especially after this NYT Magazine interview – but I’ll leave the most colorful ones to your imagination. Here are some of the most telling excerpts from yesterday’s piece. (My comments are italicized):

Your new 28-page memo, “The Language of Health Care,” was sent to Republicans in Congress and recommends that they speak about health care reform in ominous phrases. For instance, you suggest that they refer to “a Washington takeover.”
“Takeover” is a word that grabs attention. (Yet, a big fat lie)

Is it a correct description of the president’s plans for reform?
We don’t know what he is proposing. We want to avoid “a Washington takeover.” (We know exactly what he’s proposing. He’s said it over and over and over again. Read a newspaper. Or turn on the news. Fox doesn’t count.)

But that’s not at issue. What the Democrats want is for everyone to be able to choose between their old, private health-insurance plan and an all-new, public health-insurance option.
I’m not a policy person. I’m a language person. (Guess what? I do language AND policy. You have to know the latter to accurately craft the former. Although, seeing as how accuracy isn’t your concern…)

Who paid you to write the health care memo?
It’s not relevant. (Of course it isn’t. Silly us for asking.)

Are you married?
No. I may have perfected the language that gets people to vote certain ways, and buy certain products, but I haven’t perfected the language to get some woman to buy me. (Shock this deep, honest, sincere, well-informed, principled man is still single, eh?)

I’m Toast

To say I desperately need a weekend after the past few days would be an understatement, but if I start to get my hopes up for genuine, berry-free time off, I know I’ll just end up miserably disappointed.

However, I do plan to allow myself a handful of hours over the next few days to do things that don’t involve health care, Congress, messaging, etc.

A handful of that handful will start this evening. And by evening, I mean as soon as possible.

Have a good one.

My Six Dads

I’ve got a TV in my office and was just flipping through the channels to pull up something a reporter told me to watch when I passed the following Maury show title:

Help! Which of these 3 men is my baby’s father? Pt. 2

Part 2? That’s a lot of possible dads.

Spot On

Krugman nails it today. Read the whole thing:

Blue Double Cross

That didn’t take long. Less than two weeks have passed since much of the medical-industrial complex made a big show of working with President Obama on health care reform — and the double-crossing is already well under way. Indeed, it’s now clear that even as they met with the president, pretending to be cooperative, insurers were gearing up to play the same destructive role they did the last time health reform was on the agenda.

So here’s the question: Will Mr. Obama gloss over the reality of what’s happening, and try to preserve the appearance of cooperation? Or will he honor his own pledge, made back during the campaign, to go on the offensive against special interests if they stand in the way of reform?

The story so far: on May 11 the White House called a news conference to announce that major players in health care, including the American Hospital Association and the lobbying group America’s Health Insurance Plans, had come together to support a national effort to control health care costs.

The fact sheet on the meeting, one has to say, was classic Obama in its message of post-partisanship and, um, hope. “For too long, politics and point-scoring have prevented our country from tackling this growing crisis,” it said, adding, “The American people are eager to put the old Washington ways behind them.”

But just three days later the hospital association insisted that it had not, in fact, promised what the president said it had promised — that it had made no commitment to the administration’s goal of reducing the rate at which health care costs are rising by 1.5 percentage points a year. And the head of the insurance lobby said that the idea was merely to “ramp up” savings, whatever that means.

Meanwhile, the insurance industry is busily lobbying Congress to block one crucial element of health care reform, the public option — that is, offering Americans the right to buy insurance directly from the government as well as from private insurance companies. And at least some insurers are gearing up for a major smear campaign.

On Monday, just a week after the White House photo-op, The Washington Post reported that Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina was preparing to run a series of ads attacking the public option. The planning for this ad campaign must have begun quite some time ago.

The Post has the storyboards for the ads, and they read just like the infamous Harry and Louise ads that helped kill health care reform in 1993. Troubled Americans are shown being denied their choice of doctor, or forced to wait months for appointments, by faceless government bureaucrats. It’s a scary image that might make some sense if private health insurance — which these days comes primarily via HMOs — offered all of us free choice of doctors, with no wait for medical procedures. But my health plan isn’t like that. Is yours?

“We can do a lot better than a government-run health care system,” says a voice-over in one of the ads. To which the obvious response is, if that’s true, why don’t you? Why deny Americans the chance to reject government insurance if it’s really that bad?

For none of the reform proposals currently on the table would force people into a government-run insurance plan. At most they would offer Americans the choice of buying into such a plan.

And the goal of the insurers is to deny Americans that choice. They fear that many people would prefer a government plan to dealing with private insurance companies that, in the real world as opposed to the world of their ads, are more bureaucratic than any government agency, routinely deny clients their choice of doctor, and often refuse to pay for care.

Which brings us back to Mr. Obama.

Back during the Democratic primary campaign, Mr. Obama argued that the Clintons had failed in their 1993 attempt to reform health care because they had been insufficiently inclusive. He promised instead to gather all the stakeholders, including the insurance companies, around a “big table.” And that May 11 event was, of course, intended precisely to show this big-table strategy in action.

But what if interest groups showed up at the big table, then blocked reform? Back then, Mr. Obama assured voters that he would get tough: “If those insurance companies and drug companies start trying to run ads with Harry and Louise, I’ll run my own ads as president. I’ll get on television and say ‘Harry and Louise are lying.’ ”

The question now is whether he really meant it.

The medical-industrial complex has called the president’s bluff. It polished its image by showing up at the big table and promising cooperation, then promptly went back to doing all it can to block real change. The insurers and the drug companies are, in effect, betting that Mr. Obama will be afraid to call them out on their duplicity.

It’s up to Mr. Obama to prove them wrong.