About CNBC

March 13, 2009 10:49 a.m.

We’re all talking a lot about CNBC today after the boffo drubbing Jim Cramer took last night on the Daily Show. As an aside, as big of a clown as Cramer has been and as wildly hyperbolic as many of his recent comments have were, I’ll give the guy props for agreeing to go on the show where he certainly knew he was going to get sliced and diced, though perhaps not that sliced and diced. But back to CNBC.

As the economy has moved front and center, probably all of us are reading and watching a lot more financial news. It now runs regularly on our bank of TVs here at TPM HQ, whereas we used to be more focused on the regular cable news nets and the CSPANs. But there are somewhat unique advantages CNBC operates under. To the best of my knowledge CNBC is not part of the news division at NBC. It’s part of the division that runs cable broadcasting. MSNBC is also one of their cable channels; but they report up through the news division. As you can see here, CNBC President Mark Hoffman reports to NBC Universal’s Jeff Zucker, not Steve Capus, the president of NBC News. So they’re in with Bravo and the rest. And they’re under no pressure from the News division to provide editorial objectivity or balance or any editorial standards at all (*). And I mean, half of it is Jim Cramer and Larry Kudlow. So that’s pretty obvious.

The other point, which is both obvious and worth stating, is that CNBC’s business model is not reporting news for average folks or even average investors. While the channel makes good money, it ratings are actually pretty low. The whole model is based on who the audience is — brokers, financial professionals and folks with big money on Wall Street. So of course it’s heavily biased toward that viewership.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Big dollar investors deserve their own cable channel too. But as more of the ‘news’ moves into CNBC’s ‘space’, it’s worth considering how deeply skewed their reporting is.

(ed.note: * — Obviously, this does not mean that they don’t apply their own editorial standards. Just that they’re on their own in that regard and not on any kind of leash from the news division which might provide some push back to their right-wing tilt or singular focus on Wall Street as the determiner of what’s good or not for the economy.)

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