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May 15, 1987| Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation's press

Cable News Network's continuous coverage of the Iran- contra hearings in Washington has paid off handsomely, with viewership increasing by as much as 229% over the channel's normal audience share, the network reported Thursday. "In only a handful of disaster-coverage cases have we had better ratings than this," explained CNN spokeswoman Claire Shipman. CNN's coverage of last week's morning sessions drew a 1.6 rating, or a 129% increase over the April average, according to A.C. Nielsen Co. figures. The afternoon rating was 2.3, or a 229% increase over the previous month's average.

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