Brian Stelter here at 10:45pm ET on Monday, August 15th. Here's the latest on HBO, CTV, theGrio, Disney, Togethxr, and much more...
How "broken" are we, really?
With President Biden set to sign the Democrats' sweeping climate change and health care bill into law on Tuesday, here is something to consider: More is getting done in DC than the "prevailing narrative" would lead you to believe.
At least that's the case Farah Stockman makes in this new article for New York Times Opinion. Congress is passing major, and often bipartisan, bills. Biden is following through. But the news may not be getting out.
"It is a function of our hyperpartisan era that such productivity is often kept under wraps," Stockman writes, with many lawmakers feeling that it's "uncool to crow about working with the other side." Here's the point – here's the reason why I wanted to lead with this – "that leaves the public with the impression that their government is more broken than it actually is, and it robs voters of the hope that it could ever change. The notion of endless, absolute gridlock isn't just wrong. It's dangerous. It's causing Americans — and people around the world — to lose faith in democracy as a model of governance."
She quotes Jason Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, as saying "the democracy is badly bruised, but it is not broken." Many impulses and incentives push the "broken" narrative for various reasons, but it's worth pushing back from time to time. Let's debate whether the laws are constructive or destructive; let's dissect whether the provisions go too far or not nearly far enough; but let's not mistake imperfection with inaction or intractability...
Five more notes
-- "Taking advantage of some political momentum, Biden is interrupting his summer vacation for the signing," Ben Gittleson writes... (ABC)
-- Politicians and pundits describing Biden's "failed legislative agenda" had "written their reviews before the end of the play," John Harwood writes... (CNN)
-- BTW, have you noticed? "US gasoline prices continue to fall, and they could keep falling, raising the possibility of gas below $3 a gallon in much of the country before the end of the year..." (CNN)
-- The so-called Inflation Reduction Act "is a climate bill by another name," Eric Roston and Brian Eckhouse write... (Bloomberg)
-- "I still haven't seen any major media org FACT CHECK the blatantly misleading bill name," Mitch McConnell's press secretary Doug Andres comments... (Twitter)
-- James Rainey's newest must-read is from Stockton, California: The 209 Times website "portrays itself as an independent news site. Critics call it a blunt tool for the political ambitions of its owner..." (LAT)
-- "The CEO of the Center for Investigative Reporting has resigned following a staff 'no confidence' letter and the departure of two top executives," Steven Perlberg reports... (Insider)
-- Latest from the book biz trial in DC: "Madeline McIntosh, the chief executive of Penguin Random House U.S., took the stand on Monday to defend its bid to buy the rival publishing house Simon & Schuster..." (NYT)
Here's what MAGA media is saying
"Obviously" Donald Trump is going to be indicted, Tucker Carlson said Monday night as he returned from vacation to his Fox pulpit. Carlson said that anyone who supports Trump or free speech will be treated as a "criminal" and a "threat." One of his banners said "DOJ IS PURGING EVERY FIGURE IN TRUMP'S ORBIT." Earlier in the day, over on Newsmax, Trump lawyer Alina Habba said that if the DOJ does indict and Trump is disqualified from running in 2024, "that would cause so much mayhem."
For a better sense of what right-wing readers and viewers are hearing, one week after the Mar-a-Lago search, here's a snapshot:
Dan Bongino's banner on Fox over the weekend: "FIRE EVERYONE INVOLVED IN THE TRUMP RAID." Newsmax contributor/former Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis on Twitter: "Democrats think you're the enemy." Charlie Kirk at a Turning Point Action event: "The raid at Mar-a-Lago only makes me like Donald Trump even more." One of Monday's Gateway Pundit headlines: "These People Are Lawless." The Federalist's current lead story: The "raid" was "to get Donald Trump, not documents."
And so on and so on. The anti-FBI, anti-DOJ messaging has totally overwhelmed MAGA media. One dissenting voice was Fox's Steve Doocy, who warned against the harmful rhetoric on "Fox & Friends" and said "it would be great" if Trump discouraged violent chatter. His co-hosts immediately shifted the conversation...
>> "The danger is not organized civil war," Tom Nichols writes for The Atlantic, "but individual Americans with deep resentments and delusions..."
>> Monday's legal development: "DOJ opposes making public details in Mar-a-Lago search warrant's probable cause affidavit..."
MSNBC's 9pm launch
Alex Wagner visited "The Rachel Maddow Show" on Monday night to preview her Tuesday launch in Maddow's longtime 9pm slot. (Maddow will continue hosting on Mondays.) "We are trying to figure out the ways we can carry through some of the incredible intellectual rigor and informative analysis that Rachel has established in the 9pm hour, and how we can make a through line with what we do Tuesday through Friday, and also add in some new elements that are reflective of my experience," Wagner told Deadline's Ted Johnson. Two other key quotes:
>> "I spend a lot of time in the field, and I hope to bring that experience and some of that DNA to the show..."
>> "I think the urgency of the hour is figuring out how to dismantle, or at least undercut, a system that has effectively spun a web of lies for the American public..."
The AP's David Bauder has more on the launch here...
-- She's done mornings, afternoons, now evenings: Alisyn Camerota is anchoring "CNN Tonight" at 9pm this week...
-- Salman Rushdie's family did not share any updates on his condition on Monday. The attack has renewed "free speech debates," Jennifer Schuessler writes... (NYT)
-- Margaret Atwood writes: Rushdie shows us that "if we don’t defend free speech, we live in tyranny..." (The Guardian)
-- South Sudan journalist Diing Magot, who was arrested while covering a protest for Voice of America last week, "has been released from detention..." (VOA)
-- Elon Musk wrote a column for the "Chinese Communist Party online censor agency's magazine..." (Sky)
-- "Gannett lays off journalists, closes papers and keeps the numbers to itself:" Dan Kennedy points out that last week's cuts "were broad and deep," but the exact number is not known... (Media Nation)
Nightly news turmoil in Canada
Lisa LaFlamme, chief news anchor at the Canadian broadcaster CTV, "has taken to Twitter to announce she has been forced out as host of CTV National News, the country's top-rated newscast," THR's Etan Vlessing wrote Monday.
"While it is crushing to be leaving CTV National News in a manner that is not my choice," the 35-year veteran said, "please know reporting to you has truly been the greatest honor of my life."
LaFlamme's statement became big news across Canada – and placed CTV owner Bell Media in an uncomfortable spotlight. The company cited "changing viewer habits" for the decision to remove LaFlamme and promoted Omar Sachedina, who will take over next month. Here is the Toronto Star's take, with quotes from worried staffers...
Chapek's newest challenge
Dan Loeb's Third Point "has bought a new stake in Disney after selling one off earlier this year," and Loeb has outlined five changes he wants, including spining off ESPN and taking full control of Hulu, CNN's Paul La Monica reported Monday.
"The investor's calls come at an inflection point for Disney and the streaming industry at large," the WSJ's Robbie Whelan wrote. (His story is leading the WSJ homepage right now.) Loeb "presents a new challenge for Bob Chapek," the NYT's team wrote...
"An expected wave of substantial layoffs has started crashing through Warner Bros. Discovery," Vulture's Joe Adalian wrote Monday. On Monday HBO (one of CNN's siblings) laid off about 70 people, roughly 14% of its workforce, amid "a broader round of cost-cutting," the WSJ's Joe Flint wrote. "The HBO Max units in charge of reality shows and documentaries will be affected, as well as the one responsible for family entertainment... HBO Max's casting unit will be dissolved, and the team in charge of buying old content for the service will be greatly reduced..."
FOR THE RECORD, PART THREE
-- "Additional layoffs at other WBD divisions are expected, but this is it" for Casey Bloys' HBO team, Lesley Goldberg says... (THR)
-- Conversations about what to call the future combo of HBO Max and discovery+ "are continuing," Michael Schneider writes, "with options including whether to call it 'HBO Max' or even just 'Max,' with the debate centering on how much brand recognition 'HBO' has internationally..." (Variety)
The CW's new owner
It's official: Nexstar is buying "a 75% stake in the CW, with previous co-owners Paramount Global and Warner Bros. Discovery each retaining 12.5% stakes," the WSJ's Joe Flint and Will Feuer wrote Monday. Nextar is "assuming operational control of the CW immediately," and CEO Mark Pedowitz is staying on. Nexstar boss Perry Sook "pledged to bring the CW to profitability by 2025..."
BY BRIAN LOWRY:
Nexstar raised some eyebrows (and launched a few memes) by citing the older audience profile of the CW, noting that its content would be adjusted accordingly. But that 50-plus linear TV skew ignores that the CW has built its model in part on series (especially its soap and superhero fare) that play well beyond TV on Netflix and in the digital space, where younger audiences are more apt to find it, serving the interests of Warner Bros. and CBS, the partners in the network that produce most of that content.
Walmart ➕ Paramount
The WSJ's Sarah Nassauer and Jessica Toonkel were first with this news on Monday: "Walmart Reaches Video-Streaming Deal to Offer Paramount+ to Members." The perk will start in September for Walmart+ members, and the companies "agreed to a 12-month exclusivity agreement." Details here...
FOR THE RECORD, PART FOUR
-- "Apple is going to, over time, significantly expand its own advertising business," Mark Gurman reports... (Bloomberg)
-- Kaya Yurieff's latest: "How Instagram's TikTok envy finally backfired..." (The Info)
-- Influencers on TikTok "are encouraging people to ditch hormonal contraception," and Sarah Sloat says it's a "symptom of medicine's bigger problem..." (WIRED)
-- "Snap said today that the company’s paid subscription plan Snapchat+, which launched in June, now has more than 1 million users across the globe..." (TechCrunch)
-- "Being thrown off social media was supposed to end Alex Jones's career. It made him even richer," Max Chafkin writes, noting the limits of "deplatforming..." (Bloomberg)
Revealing Byron Allen's plans for theGrio
In the weeks since Byron Allen's company bought the assets of the shuttered Black News Channel out of bankruptcy, there has been considerable speculation about his plans. He immediately renamed the channel theGrio, in line with his existing website. "We want the channel to be a lot more inclusive," he told me on Sunday's "Reliable Sources." It will be "focused on lifestyle, entertainment, news, and sports" – in other words, not just a news channel.
Allen also said "corporate America needs to lean in" and support diverse voices, "and that means subscriber fees from the cable operators and ad dollars from corporate America." Here's the segment, plus a recap by Ramishah Maruf...
FOR THE RECORD, PART FIVE
-- "Lionsgate has extended CEO Jon Feltheimer's contract for another year, which will now take him through Aug. 21, 2025..." (TheWrap)
-- A "special David Bowie-themed edition of 'CREEM' to be included with relaunched mag's first issue" next month... (ABC)
-- Togethxr, the media platform "founded by iconic athletes Alex Morgan, Sue Bird, Simone Manuel, and Chloe Kim," has "built a loyal following," Jeff Beer reports... (Fast Company)
'Legacy' plays for Team Buss
BY BRIAN LOWRY:
After the Chicago Bulls' "The Last Dance" in 2020, 2022 NBA nostalgia has belonged to the Lakers, with the drama "Winning Time" and Apple's doc "They Call Me Magic." "Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers" almost feels like a direct response to the unflattering aspects of the former HBO series, but the 10-part docuseries is so heavily skewed toward the late owner Jerry Buss and his grown kids that it somewhat offsets the basketball and the all-star players. Fine in moments, overall it plays too much like a licensed product. Read on...
-- "Better Call Saul" concluded its epic run tonight on AMC. Brian Lowry will have a review overnight at CNN Entertainment...
-- HBO's "The Anarchists" docuseries "wrapped last night with a surprising end." Director Todd Schramke discussed the six-year project here... (WIRED)
-- The Academy is apologizing to Sacheen Littlefeather, "who refused an Oscar on Marlon Brando's behalf..." (CNN)
-- Lisa Respers France writes: "Adele isn't ready to answer whether she is engaged or not..." (CNN)
LAST BUT NOT LEAST...
Dog of the day!
Andrea writes: "Kenzie keeps me company every morning while I read Reliable Sources..."
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