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Networks Do A Fast Shuffle At Inaugural

January 22, 1985|FRED ROTHENBERG | AP Television Writer

NEW YORK — The major television networks, which spent weeks preparing for an outdoor presidential inaugural extravaganza, had less than 24 hours to move Monday's ceremony and celebrations indoors.

"A lot of people here are as disappointed as the West Virginia March Band must be," said George Schweitzer, vice president for communications for the CBS Broadcast Group.

The bitter cold weather in Washington forced changes in the inaugural activities, causing the networks to redeploy personnel and equipment.

"We essentially had to change everything we were doing. Everything," said Bob McFarland, NBC News' Washington bureau chief.

One of the biggest logistical changes involved the scrapping of the inaugural parade in Washington, D.C., and scheduling, instead, a makeshift event at the Capital Centre in Landover, Md.

"What we're trying to do in six to seven hours, it normally takes six to seven days to do," said Tom Wolzien, NBC's vice president of special productions. "Stay tuned."

By mid-morning, Wolzien's staff had hooked up two camera transmissions from the Capitol Centre and was trying to arrange for three more. Their work had been made more difficult because all the workers had to leave the building for a while while the Secret Service conducted a security sweep.

All three networks had to cut back on their inaugural broadcasts.

Another change was that the outdoor camera positions on the Capitol steps, where President Reagan was originally scheduled to have his public swearing-in ceremony, had to be moved into the Rotunda, where the swearing-in ceremonies were to be held.

"It was a mass move inside, a real huge project," said Wolzien. "We had to run dozens and dozens of wires."

McFarland said NBC, as pool coordinator for the event, began laying cable and making plans to erect television lights inside the Rotunda "as soon as we got a rumor (Sunday afternoon) that going inside was being discussed."

The networks' major anchors--NBC's Tom Brokaw, CBS' Dan Rather and ABC's Peter Jennings--were not greatly affected. Since the original inaugural events were scattered around Washington, the anchors had planned to coordinate the activities from their own studios anyway.

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