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Health Care Bad for Ratings?

Health care may be a top priority for the current administration, but apparently it isn’t for TV viewers. Politico’s Michael Calderone writes about the struggle President Barack Obama and the news media as a whole face with the majority of television viewers. Take, for instance, the president’s press conference last Wednesday evening:

It’s not as if the public ignored Obama entirely as he took questions in the East Room on Wednesday night. Indeed, 24.5 million viewers tuned in across the broadcast and cable networks. Still, that tally was the smallest prime-time audience of Obama’s presidency, dropping 50 percent from five months ago. And Fox’s decision not to air the presser paid off: The network won the 8 p.m. time slot with an episode of “So You Think You Can Dance.”

While most people—from media professionals down to the average viewer or reader—agree on the gravity of the issue, it seems health care can be complicated for pretty much everyone involved. CNBC’s John Harwood puts it this way, “It’s not only not a cable TV-friendly story; it’s not a journalism-friendly story…It’s incredibly complex to try and explain to people.” A health care solution was often listed as a top three issue for voters during last year’s presidential election, but maybe we’re finding that viewers are simply difficult to engage as that solution is developed.

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