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Nbc News Expanding Its Horizons

January 06, 1987|MORGAN GENDEL | Times Staff Writer

NBC News, on a roll despite the cancellation of the prime-time "1986" series, may be seen nearly 'round the clock and through much of the world in 1987.

A pre-"Sunrise" business report, a lighthearted late-night newscast, a midday network report and a seven-day-a-week "Today" show are in various stages of development, NBC News President Lawrence K. Grossman told reporters Monday.

In addition, NBC is a partner in a new venture called Anglovision, a "pan-European" effort "to circulate English-language news throughout the world," Grossman said.

Following the success of NBC's prime-time entertainment slate, Grossman's news division saw its "Today" show overtake ABC's "Good Morning America" in the morning ratings and its "NBC Nightly News" frequently move to No. 1 in its time slot during 1986. And even though the "1986" news-magazine series failed, Grossman reiterated earlier statements that NBC News will continue to have a prime-time presence: 15 one-hour documentaries are planned this year and at least 15 more for 1988.

Tonight's report on the Iran scandal, "The Arms, the Men, the Money," airing at 10 p.m. (Channels 4, 36 and 39), and next Tuesday's special on AIDS were examples noted by Grossman.

Grossman, speaking at the Century Plaza, kicked off the second full day of what is to be nearly two weeks of presentations to the nation's TV critics. Following NBC's stint on the so-called "press tour" will be screenings and celebrity interviews offered by ABC, CBS, the Public Broadcasting Service and various cable channels.

Sunday's session found "Today" producer Steve Friedman--flanked by his show's stars, Bryant Gumbel, Jane Pauley and Willard Scott--predicting a short run for CBS' new "Morning Show," an entertainment-and-information package that debuts Monday in the old "CBS Morning News" slot.

"I think their emphasis is misplaced," Friedman said. "I think you'll see an attempt by (CBS News chief) Howard Stringer to reclaim that time" for a program produced by his division.

Plans reported by Grossman on Monday also focused in part on "Today," which he said will begin a regular Sunday broadcast by mid-year. A Saturday segment will follow before the end of the year.

Grossman also announced a March 2 start date for "Before Hours," a 15-minute business report anchored by Bob Jamieson. The show will air daily at 6:15 a.m., before "NBC News at Sunrise."

Pilot shows are being developed for both a 12:30 p.m. network newscast and a news show to follow "Late Night with David Letterman."

"Everybody has tried to do an offbeat newscast except the journalists," Grossman said of the late-night effort. Mentioning the '60s classic "That Was the Week That Was" and parody efforts by Second City, he said that serious newscasters could also appeal to viewers' "interest in the human condition" in a lighthearted way.

NBC, meanwhile, is a 30% partner in Anglovision, which had its first board meeting Friday with Grossman as chairman. Other partners include Shearson-Lehman American Express and International Newspapers, an Irish media company.

NBC has licensed rights to its various news shows to Anglovision for international distribution via cable companies and in hotel rooms in Europe.

Among other assertions by Grossman:

--Referring to NBC sportscaster Bob Costas' interview with President Reagan during the Fiesta Bowl Friday, Grossman said NBC News does not expect to borrow Costas to do additional interviews with Reagan.

But as for the appearance itself, Grossman said, "I don't have a problem with a President coming on who wants to talk about sports." If Reagan's appearance exploited an opportunity to bolster his waning positive image, as some critics have charged, Grossman said that "it's good for the country to see" that maneuvering rather than to have NBC keep him off the air.

--The slate of one-hour documentaries are not designed to promote NBC News' stars, as one reporter suggested was the case with Monday night's "To Be a Teacher," reported by "NBC Nightly News" anchor Tom Brokaw. Nor, Grossman said, will most of the documentaries be shunted to the summer months, when viewing levels are down and prime-time series are in reruns.

--The notion of establishing a political action committee "is certainly dead with (the news) division." Though new NBC Chairman Robert Wright recently asked NBC's chief counsel about the feasibility of establishing a PAC--which would enable the company to indirectly campaign for specific issues and candidates--Grossman said that Wright immediately went along with the idea that NBC News should not be involved.

--He expects the $19.3-million libel judgment against NBC News stemming from its report five years ago about singer Wayne Newton's alleged involvement with organized crime to be overturned. The investigative team that produced the program recently had their NBC contracts renewed, he said.

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