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Oprah Should Spend Capital to Put OWN in the Political Game


It’s one thing to have a network vision, it’s quite another to make it marketable, watchable and profitable, let alone hip. And if there is one thing OWN is not it’s relevant. OWN seems sleepy and quaint at a moment when women are flexing their power.

OWN is missing history.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation chose to politicize their mission by targeting Planned Parenthood and their world imploded. Women are railing against Republican bills that range from transvaginal ultrasounds to forcing women to have and view pictures against our will. Rush Limbaugh calls Sandra Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute” for speaking out in favor of Pres. Obama’s contraceptive mandate, which causes an earthquake in talk radio, changing the advertising model of Premiere Networks. Female legislators are tormenting men across the country in state houses with reproductive bills to embarrass them over Viagra.

The big news on Oprah’s OWN?

Rosie O’Donnell’s show has been cancelled.

Al Gore feels Oprah’s pain.

CurrentTV languished for years before Keith Olbermann signed on, then predictably took the buzz off rail in a squabble that anyone could have predicted. Jennifer Granholm has joined The Young Turks, so at least they’re relevant, relentlessly progressive and breaking ground, while struggling to rise.

OWN’s lineup is none of the above and at a time when women are utilizing power to move policy and politics in America, with Democrats depending on women to win in November to keep the Senate, what’s the network’s contribution to the discussion?

As far as I can tell it’s silence.

The president of Emily’s List Stephanie Schriock stated recently that her organization had doubled its membership since Speaker Boehner was handed his gavel. It’s up over 1 million members.

The religious conservative war on women has been in full swing since November 2010 (though I’d argue since 1980), with a list of anti-women’s freedom legislation historic.

It’s a presidential election season once again, but yet Oprah’s OWN remains disengaged on politics in any significant way by choice, in a country that has awakened to the majority of women having the power to elect a president or not and willing to prove it.

Oprah’s talent and ingenuity can still save OWN from irrelevancy, but to do so she needs to harness the moment we’re in today, not channel the nostalgia of her daytime talk show. People forget that Oprah made ratings gold by besting Jerry Springer, but she didn’t do it through tired bookings and yawning subject focus. She found a way to hit the zeitgeist and run with it, never looking back and became one of the most powerful, successful and important women in business and culture.

Why should we care?

Because Oprah has the power and money to bring the best of liberal, conservative and independent thought to her network, putting together a political division that could be unique, though Oprah would have to hand the job to someone savvy beyond the Oprah bubble to set it free from predictable programming.

Secretary Clinton’s former presidential campaign unleashed the Hillary Effect, with female ambassadorships in Washington growing dramatically once she came to State. But long before that the Hillary Effect helped put a woman on the Republican Party’s national ticket, which ignited a conservative women’s movement that lit the Republican Party on fire, with Sarah Palin’s Tea Party power, before it collapsed, leading to huge wins in 2010 and historic victories for the right across the country in state legislatures. In media, it catapulted women across network and cable shows, from morning shows to evening news.

If conservative women were leading the Republican presidential campaign, the right would be on fire right now, instead of on a political death march for Mitt, or worse, Rick Santorum, a politician who when he last ran in Pennsylvania suffered the biggest loss in memory.

Meanwhile, on Oprah’s OWN network it’s as if time has stood still or remains viewed from a pillow.

It’s the 21st century and women are leading in ways that seem revolutionary, from reproductive demands to economics and Occupy, but not on OWN.

Is it any wonder no one’s watching it?

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13 Responses to Oprah Should Spend Capital to Put OWN in the Political Game

  1. Marie205 March 18, 2012 at 9:14 am #

    I agree with your blog post about Oprah. I think she is playing it extremely safe and trying to stay on the sidelines of important female issues. I wonder if she is afraid of jumping into political issues after that backlash for supporting Obama in 2008. I heard she got death threats and extreme hate mail for getting involved.

  2. Beth in suburban Chicago March 18, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    Oprah’s ratings took a hit after she backed Obama. And she’s in the ratings biz. I think she realizes people don’t come to her for politics, they come to her for entertainment. So doing what you’re advocating would completely change the dynamic, the business plan, everything. And she’d lose a ton of viewers. (I know, I know, your argument is she doesn’t have them to lose!)

    Remember, she got out of Jeremiah Wright’s church long before Obama did. She recognized his brand of sermonizing would not go over well with lots of people, people she needed to continue making money.

    • angels81 March 18, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

      I think you are way out there in left field. Oprah’s problem is she has a blah show, it has nothing to do with Obama or Jeremiah Wright. Trying to lay Oprah’s problems on Obama or Jeremiah Wright is really a stretch. With as many talk shows on TV, she just has a boring show, and I think it’s nothing more then that.

      • Beth in suburban Chicago March 19, 2012 at 10:00 am #

        Oh, I agree about the blah show. I was trying (badly, I guess) that after losing viewers (and money) four years ago when she endorsed Obama, Oprah wasn’t likely to head down that road again.

  3. ladywalker68 March 18, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    Interesting perspective but I don’t know if we need yet another political pundit show. I am so burned out on the pumped up volume on both sides that I have been seeking sanctuary in the kinder gentler offerings on NPR especially on weekends.

    My anger towards the ENTIRE Republican party is at an all time high and there is practically no escape from spin. On the evening news, the minute I hear any of the candidates names or the words “Republican Primary” I either mute the TV/Radio (I listen to both) or just shut of the blasted thing or tune into music or the Hallmark channel. I am just so sick of the vitriol and alienation from BOTH SIDES and the way the candidates are pitting people against one another instead of trying to bring us together to solve the very real problems we face.

    In fact at this very moment I am listening to my local NPR affiliate and about jumped for joy when they announced the Garrison Keillor’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration on Prairie Home Companion will be on in 20 minutes. I mean I can handle “good” political comedy such as The Daily Show, but what I crave are informative shows that give common people some “take-aways” about surviving in these tough times.

    The few times I listened to OWN when I had satellite radio, I was not impressed and I cannot speak for all of its content. As far as Rosie, well, IMHO, it just wasn’t a very good show.

    Why is Ellen such a hit right now? I would say because she entertains people. She is funny, has a lot of fun on her show, but also has a good mix of guests. I believe it would be a total mistake for Ellen to become more political because speaking for myself, I think we average schmucks need some shows that offer inexpensive fun and/or information that is relevant to helping us our lives each day.

    Of course politics is important. But when you have a job, a commute, a family, you also only have so much energy left at the end of the days. I know that my energy is limited an on some days, I can do as I am now, offering up an opinion on a political blog, and on other days, I just need to focus on surviving in my world such as it is, or just read the blogs so I keep informed on the latest and greatest insanity and can try to make informed decisions when I vote.

    It would be nice to have some program that serves as a mental health break, and believe me, politics is never that, except for a show like the Daily Show which is one of the greatest parodies ever to grace the Comedy Channel.

    So again, speaking strictly for myself, that last thing I want is yet more politically charged programming. Now if Oprah could somehow pull off a focus on better educating us all on women issues in a non-political way, then I might tune in. Wonk the Vote’s recent “Cinematherapy Feminist Perspective” is very close to what I am talking about.

    I just want to end with a very unscientific and yet personal observation about both TV and Radio programming these days? It seems as if when I do tune in randomly that 90% of the time I am assaulted with the following:

    1. A Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, or “fill-in-the blank” weight loss of fitness commercial
    2. Viagra, Cialis, or “fill-in-the blank” ED commercial
    3. A commercial on how to defy aging
    4. A “fill-in-the-blank” pharmaceutical commercial complete with the triple speed disclaimer never-ending list of all of the possible disgusting side effects of these drugs.

    The other day, Martha Stewart had a guy on who has a new method of face lift that involves using sound waves that is less than intrusive. When I am struggling financially just to keep up with the mortgage payment, this helps me exactly how?

    So I guess I belong on another planet because my priorities are not losing weight, helping my partner maintain his “maleness”, keeping my face looking artificially young, and I am only interested in discussing my medications with my physician.

    Please, help me! LOL!!!

    • jjamele March 19, 2012 at 7:20 am #

      You choices are Fox and the nonstop Look how Stupid the Democrats are Everything is Obama’s fault blather, or MSNBC and the nonstop Look how Stupid the Republicans are Everything is their fault Obama is Awesome blather. Or you can watch CNN and fall asleep.

      Or you can tune to CSPAN, NPR, or the BBC and find out what is happening in the world.

  4. fairmindedindependent March 18, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    There are way too many channels on television. I remember when I was growing up there were 30 channels at the most, and my family mostly watched the local channels, now there is a channel for everything, its getting way too carried away. I watched the OWN channel, and its boring a dull.

  5. mgloraine March 18, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    Agree 100%. I watch Rachel Maddow every night, but OWN never. It may as well be another home shopping channel, or trout fishing in the Yukon, or whatever.

  6. Lake Lady March 18, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    This is OT but it is funny! The GOP in MO. seems pretty clueless.

    http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/raucous-gop-caucus-in-st-peters-is-shut-down/article_a8eb35ec-7050-11e1-acac-0019bb30f31a.html

  7. Lake Lady March 18, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

    Ladywalker, I take refuge on PBS and CSpan.Did you know Bill Moyers is back on? I love Doc Martin and I have to admit I was hooked on Masterpiece Theatre’s Downton Abby. The travel shows are good too. Once in a blue moon I will do a HGTV marathon. I like International House Hunters.

    I am so lucky to have the lake in all my back windows and it never fails to sooth. Tonight’s sunset was spectacular.

    As far a Oprah goes I lost interest in her shows years ago. I know she has done some great things but when she came out with her magazine and had her “favorite things” page with $500 pajamas I just got turned off to her.

  8. guyski March 19, 2012 at 6:11 am #

    Oprah Winfrey’s net worth as of March 2012 is $2.7 Billion. That has to be considered in her thought process.

  9. AliceP March 19, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    Watch Oprah Winfrey? I’m not interested in another billionaire telling me how to think and what politics I should have in between commercials for products that rip me off and feed more dollars to the 1% so THEY can con me into voting their buddies into office to help them build wealth.

    Read a book, go outside, learn to play a musical instrument, volunteer to do good in your community, talk to your neighbors, take a walk, get a pet –

    • Lake Lady March 19, 2012 at 11:49 am #

      All good an worthy ideas and things that I do, except the musical instrument. My neighbors would not appreciate that. ha!

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