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Jeff Cohen

Jeff Cohen is a journalist, media critic and founding director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College

February 27th, 2011 1:16 AM

Will ABC News’ “Made in America” Series Avoid Their Boss, Disney?

This weekend ABC News heavily promoted its special “Made in America” series that will run all week. From the promotions, it looks like the series will focus partly on what happens when a household seeks to remove all furnishings and other items from its home that are not made in America. Such a house apparently becomes nearly-barren and it’s no easy task to restock it with non-imported items.
 
Let me be clear: As long as they don’t descend into xenophobia, I applaud ABC News for devoting energy and time to this hugely important issue.
 
The U.S. public would benefit from knowing whether the household products we commonly consume are assembled in the U.S. or are imported -- often from countries whose vicious policies on unions and workers rights would make Wisconsin Gov. Walker look like Mother Jones.
 
But one question I can’t wait to see answered: will ABC News investigate the products sold by Disney, the mega-corporation that owns ABC? 
 
Because it’s too easy to blame U.S. consumers for buying cheap stuff from China or Bangladesh or Honduras.
 
What would be more helpful is a TV news series that scrutinizes the powerful U.S. corporations that make decisions every day determining what products mainstream America has access to.
 
I scrutinized Disney myself by going to www.DisneyStore.com – the “Official Site for Disney Merchandise.” The first 40 products I looked at were all listed as “Imported.”
 
In each product category near the top of Disney’s homepage, I checked the first six items.  First came the Girls” category: from the  Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Set to the Tangled Rapunzel Doll to the Rapunzel Swimsuit, all six products were described as “imported.”
 
I found the same when I checked the “Boys” category. Ditto for “Adults” and “Characters” and “Toys & Games” and “Home & Décor.”
 
It wasn’t until I was deep into “Pins, Art & Collectibles” -- in other words, the 41st listing I checked -- that I found an item listed as made in country: “Mickey's Dream Limited-Edition Giclée.”  (Later I found a few other products listed as “Made in USA,” but a tiny percentage.)
 
So I’m looking forward to the “Made in America” series this week. It would be great to see an ABC journalist interviewing a Disney executive on the choices the company makes in what products it offers its consumers.
And it would be even better if ABC journalists later went overseas to report on the conditions for workers in those foreign factories who produce Disney’s toys and dolls and t-shirts.
 
I’m not holding my breath.

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