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In Frost\Nixon, What is the meaning of Jack's words to Nixon?

Nixon: Come out of his own pocket. You know, he couldn't look me in the eye.

Jack: Well, I hear the networks aren't biting. Without the networks the ad agencies don't want to know.

What is it that ad agencies don't want to know exactly?

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The context is evidently the negotiations over a televised US presidential debate in 1960 between John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon. 'Jack' is Nixon's chief of staff Jack Brennan.

Jack is saying that the (three huge American television) networks are not interested in the issue. And that unless the networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) display an interest, the agencies that place advertisements on the networks won't be interested either.

The debate took place at a time when the three networks were king, before the advent of multiple TV channels and long before the invention of the internet that sucks up most advertising today. So the placing of advertising in this context depended on the interest that the TV networks showed in the issue at stake.

The person who couldn't look Nixon in the eye is David Frost, who's just written Nixon a check for $200,000

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  • Right church, wrong pew. The situation is negotiations over a proposed televised interview, 'Jack' is Nixon's chief of staff Jack Brennan, and the person who couldn't look Nixon in the eye is David Frost, who's just written Nixon a check for $200,000. Apr 9, 2017 at 19:50
  • @StoneyB I bow to your expertise. Apr 9, 2017 at 19:53
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    I've seen the movie! Apr 9, 2017 at 19:54
  • @StoneyB "Right church, wrong pew": never heard that expression before - love it! Apr 30, 2018 at 17:32
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not want to know: to refuse to listen to someone or get involved in something. We asked several of them to help, but they didn’t want to know.

It's an idiom -- it doesn't literally mean that someone didn't want to know something.

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