Recently, the major over-the-air (OTA) broadcast networks aired a speech by Donald Trump on immigration. Many news organizations and commentators contrasted this to a previous decision, in 2014, to not air a speech by Barack Obama on essentially the same topic, and to an even earlier resolution to air an immigration speech by George W. Bush.

I've been able to find that networks did air a speech by Obama about ISIS in September 2014, but that they did not air a speech by Obama on the Affordable Care Act in spring 2014. I believe I read that Bush was turned down at least once, although I can't find the article. However, I can't find a full accounting of how often they were turned down.

How many of the speeches to the nation that the two previous modern US presidents made, of the same type as Trump's speech and the ones I mentioned, were aired by the major broadcast networks? I'm asking about ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS, but information about other companies such as Univision or local affiliates would also be relevant.

  • Can you include links to the reports of "networks" not airing speeches? Do you have specific dates? Are the speeches available on CSPAN, or at all in the public domain, now? If the U.S. President actually made speeches, in spite of the speeches not being aired on "television", transcripts of the speeches should be available. Jan 14, 2019 at 5:20
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jan 14, 2019 at 5:28

1 Answer 1


https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/obama-prime-time-list lists 8 Obama prime time speeches just from 2011 to 2014. They didn't update it with 2014-2016 data. I'm assuming there were none before 2011 or they'd be listed.

This compares to only two speeches that were denied, making it 80/20% split on aired/denied:

  1. As the articles referenced in the question noted, 2014 immigration speech.

    However, this is somewhat dis-ingenuous to compare the two, due to context. First, it was in the middle of November sweeps, where this was much costlier for the networks and second, a large number of local affiliates still carried Obama's speech, with networks' OK.

  2. An health care speech. While that was also denied, the networks had pro-Obamacare programming when it was debated in congress, including prime time programming with Obama himself (ABC's controversial "Questions for the President: Prescription for America").

    This is also ignoring all the other Obama friendly network stuff. E.g. 2017 NBC Obama primetime special, something no other outgoing President got.

  • No primetime speeches by Obama during the first two years of his presidency? It's possible, but I just don't know. Perhaps they simply didn't include that period.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jan 14, 2019 at 18:11
  • Plus, I also asked about George W. Bush.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jan 14, 2019 at 18:11

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