The network is by far the most expense item for cable TV subscribers in the basic expanded universe. It is not watched by as many people as proclaimed and ESPN exists as a behemoth because of the 1984 Congressional legislation signed into law by President Ronald Reagan which created cable TV socialism. Simply, ESPN is part of a group of networks that was bundled onto a basic expanded tier, which normally would violate antitrust laws, chosen by the multiple cable system operator (MSOs) and sold to consumers at a price set by both the networks and the MSOs. The consumer cannot pick and choose what network to purchase because that was done for them by the MSO and if they want ESPN, they have to take CNN or the Weather Channel or FOX News Channel as well.
That piece of legislation saved ESPN and other cable TV networks including CNN and created the regional cable TV sports networks and FOX News Channel.
Because of cable TV socialism, ESPN has beaucoup bucks and is able to buy college sports cable TV rights and partner with say Syracuse University. TV runs sports but TV executives don't like to upset their partners either which may account for ESPN shying away from the Fine allegations.
Front men like Cowherd will apologize for ESPN's journalism standards. Did Disney, the family friendly imaged company, have a moral obligation to turn whatever evidence they had against Fine to authorities? That's a murky issue for journalists. Journalists do investigations or used to in American media without law enforcement officials' help.
But if Disney had a backbone, they would have assigned the story to ABC News and developed the story like Ross did with Foley.
Sports is still thought of as the toy store of journalism and why mess with the formula if you report on sports?
You see, if you are a beat reporter you stay in five star hotels, have a generous expensive account and fly all over the United States and maybe the globe. You rub elbows with famous jocks and can be the ultimate jock-sniffer. Besides doing any reporting, you risk getting your access cut off. ESPN is the ultimate in jock-sniffing and is a very profitable unit for Disney in many ways thanks to Congressional help and Ronald Reagan who created a socialist cable TV policy.
It is unlikely you will see any real journalistic efforts every on "SportsCenter." You probably won't see any stories on Hamilton County, Ohio selling a hospital for $15 million to pay the debt on Cincinnati's baseball and football stadiums. Or "SportsCenter" doing a piece on the various taxes used to support municipal spending on stadium or arena construction or on child molestation allegations.
This is "SportsCenter" and that is the way it is at Disney's ESPN.
Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition" is available at bickley.com, Barnes and Noble or Amazon Kindle.