Tuned In: Where to find convention coverage
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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Broadcast networks will devote limited prime-time hours to the Republican and Democratic national conventions during the next two weeks, as they have in recent elections, but political junkies can get their fill on cable and online.
For the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., Monday through Thursday, and the Democratic gathering in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 4-6, ABC, CBS and NBC will have three hours of live coverage in prime time for each convention. ABC and CBS will air an hour at 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday each week. NBC will detour from that pattern during the Democratic convention, airing an NFL game on Sept. 5 in lieu of convention coverage and two hours of convention coverage on Sept. 6. But on other newscasts -- morning shows, the nightly news and especially on their websites -- the broadcasters will offer more coverage. However, coverage plans could change if Tropical Storm Isaac disrupts the Republican convention.
"When [Walter] Cronkite [covered the conventions], it was actually real news breaking out," said CBS News chairman Jeff Fager at a press conference last month during the Television Critics Association summer press tour. "And that's a big difference. It's not that it isn't important, because we do think it's very important. But there was a reason to cover it all the time. Anything could change that would have a major impact."
For CBS, the election season offers an opportunity to try to woo viewers over to its latest morning program, "CBS This Morning," hosted by Charlie Rose, Gayle King and Norah O'Donnell. In recent weeks, the program's first half-hour has been heavy on political figures.
"We want to help, as much as we can, be as good as CBS can be in the morning and making the political coverage that ought to be by asking not only the hard questions," Mr. Rose said, "but reaching out to people who have something to say."
Cable networks CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC and C-SPAN will offer wall-to-wall convention coverage. On cable news anytime between today and Sept. 6, odds are viewers will encounter political coverage of some sort.
In advance of the conventions, CNN will debut what it calls new "in-depth interviews" in "Romney Revealed: Family, Faith and the Road to Power" (8-9:30 tonight) and "Obama Revealed: The Man, the President" (8-9:30 p.m. Sept. 3).
For the cable-less, PBS will be the best bet, with coverage from 8 until approximately 11 p.m. during the conventions and additional coverage online at PBS.org/newshour.
"From PBS's perspective, this is a great example of stepping into where the commercial marketplace isn't delivering," said PBS chief programmer John Wilson. "It's reinforced by the fact that audiences come to us for this, and we actually see audience numbers that rival or are higher than our prime-time average."
"PBS NewsHour" regulars Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill will anchor, making them the first all-female team to anchor a broadcast network's convention coverage. Ms. Woodruff said there's value in long-form coverage of the conventions, even if they are pre-planned, tidier affairs than 60 years ago.
"Not everything has to be condensed down to just a few minutes," she said. "It's our opportunity to give the Democrats and to give the Republicans a chance to tell their story. And meanwhile, we are there ... picking up the cover of a book and looking inside and asking a whole lot of questions."
Ms. Ifill said political conventions cry out for explanations and analysis.
"We're not C-SPAN," she said. "We're to take it and explain it, not just show it. And we are in a unique position to do it in what is kind of a cacophonous environment. That's why our numbers show it. People are seeking that out."
Here's what some other TV networks have planned:
Current TV: Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore will lead Current TV coverage of the conventions, 7-11 nightly, from New York. His panelists will include Current regulars former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm ("The War Room") and former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer ("Viewpoint").
TV One: The network will cover the conventions with a "One Vote Matters" prime-time special on Thursday and Sept. 6 (8 p.m.-midnight).
Bloomberg: Several of the network's regular shows will air from the conventions, including "Street Smart" anchor Trish Regan hosting prime-time specials focused on "The Economy Election."
HLN: The sister network to CNN will focus on voters and delegates -- including a Moms Panel of delegate moms -- at both conventions with anchor Kyra Phillips leading HLN's coverage.
Comedy Central: "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" (11 weeknights) will tape shows at the conventions Tuesday through Friday for the next two weeks.
Logo: Wanda Sykes will host two "NewNowNextVote" political specials with the first scheduled for 10 p.m. Sept. 10 after both conventions wrap up. The second will air just before the November election.
First Published August 26, 2012 12:00 am