Tell NBC to Bring Back Phil Donahue!

  • by: Brian Sussman
  • recipient: Bob Wright, CEO NBC, NBC General Electric
NBC should bring back Phil Donahue to television. Donahue is one of the best and brightest voices in the media, and the cancellation of his show sends the wrong message to NBC viewers about their policies.
Phil Donahue has led a distinguished career on NBC where he helped invent and define the daytime talk show. When he returned to television as the host of a prime time news talk show on MSNBC, it was much like the return of a trusted friend. His show was intended to be a democratic counter the conservative O'Reilly on Fox News. Though his ratings were lower than O'Reilly's, his show was the highest rated on MSNBC, and higher than Chris Mathews. Donahue always treated his guests with respect, and he featured guests from a wide range of political views.

Unfortunately, the show didn't last very long on MSNBC. Before the Second Gulf War started, Donahue's show was quickly dropped and replaced with an expanded "Countdown: Iraq." A leaked internal memo claimed that Donahue would present “a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war. He seems to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration’s motives.” The report warned the Donahue show could be “a home for the liberal anti-war agenda at the same time as our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.” More disconcerting still, MSNBC went on to hire trash talk radio host Michael Savage. (Read FAIR's report on Mr. Savage.) This has led many NBC and MSNBC viewers to feel uncomfortable with their network's integrity.

Phil Donahue is one of the best and brightest voices in our media, and there is definately viewer demand for a show hosted by him. We think that NBC should bring back Donahue for at least a weekly hour show. We think that NBC should look to "NOW With Bill Moyers" on PBS as an example of quality current events programming that serves the public good. Now that a difficult time in our nation has passed, it's time for NBC to bring Phil Donahue back to our TV sets.
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