Couric: 'Corporate America Is Out to Get' Your Kids

     It was almost like CBS’s version of “To Catch A Predator.” “Evening News” anchor Katie Couric warned: “They’re after your children and your grandchildren.”


     By “they,” she meant nasty old corporations “spending nearly $17 billion a year trying to sell their products to our kids.” Couric’s one-sided May 14 piece blamed the “far-reaching tentacles” of business for all sorts of life’s ills from obesity to young people having sex. The makers of “Shrek” were even criticized for working with the government to help curb childhood obesity.


     No business was even given a chance at rebuttal.


     But business critics certainly had their chance. Couric relied on four voices to flesh out the nearly five-minute story – all critical of business. She told viewers that children are targets. “They have money to spend and corporate America is out to get them.”


     Her story included a representative from the anti-industry group the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, an author of an anti-industry book and one of the most left-wing senators in Congress.


     CBS even threw in a bit of liberal criticism from popular left-wing TV show “The Colbert Report” which knocked “Shrek” producers for also making marketing deals with snack foods and cereals.


     The only neutral commentator was Pace University marketing professor Paul Kurnit who specializes in youth marketing. Even his comments were used to reinforce the story by pointing out that children have influence on “family restaurants, family vacations” – even “decision on the family car and the family home.”


     The whole package combined with Couric to deliver an attack not just on one industry, but on industries ranging from food to toys to restaurants and cars. It wasn’t just an attack, it was open warfare. The story cited a wide range of businesses and products by name such as American Express, Baby Einstein, Chuck E. Cheese, Band-Aids and Oral-B toothbrushes. All were criticized for perfectly legal marketing tactics.


     Dr. Susan Linn, from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, took some of the most sweeping shots at industry. “Advertising and marketing is a factor in childhood obesity, in eating disorders, precocious irresponsible sexuality, youth violence, underage drinking, underaged tobacco use.”


     Couric added that marketing is “turning our kids into mini shop-a-holics, it’s teaching them the wrong values, that it’s not about who you are but what you have.”


     She turned to Susan Gregory Thomas, “an investigative journalist and author of the book “Buy, Buy Baby,” for further criticism. The camera zoomed into focus on the book’s title, skipping the more obvious anti-business subtitle “How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds.”


     Thomas attacked business use of “characters” like Dora the Explorer or Elmo “The only other scenario in which they're going to encounter these characters is in a scenario in which that character is trying to sell them something, backpacks, Band-Aids, toothbrushes,” she said.


     While Couric at least raised the issue of personal responsibility, she set it up so Linn could knock it back down. “Isn't it up to parents, Dr. Linn, to help their children become discriminating consumers?”

     Linn’s response was all about regulation. “It’s unfair and, and naive to expect that parents on their own are going to be able to do a great job of coping with this. They need help. They need help from the government,” she argued.

     Couric immediately followed that with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), he responded with a typical liberal solution. Harkin, who scored a 100 percent liberal ranking with the Americans for Democratic Action in 2006, was pushing to give the Federal Trade Commission more regulatory power.


     Ironically, Harkin appeared in a public service announcement with the character Elmo promoting nutrition in 2004. That video and another with Elmo promoting exercise both appear on Harkin's Web site.


     The Culture and Media Institute also exposed the flaws in Couric’s story.