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Networks Will Not Cover Case Gavel-to-Gavel

November 08, 1994|GREG BRAXTON and JANE HALL | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Television viewers hoping to see gavel-to-gavel coverage of the O.J. Simpson murder trial on ABC, CBS and NBC--as they did during Simpson's preliminary hearing--will have to settle mainly for hourly updates.

The networks, concerned about significant loss of ad revenue and about incurring soap opera fans' wrath over the preemption of their daily dramas, have opted for the hourly updates during most days of the trial.

However, the networks still plan to preempt their daytime schedules to go live during important days of the trial.

CBS and NBC said the time for the Simpson news breaks will come out of network promotional time and from shortening soap operas by a few seconds.

An ABC News spokesman said the network will provide regular updates, although it has not committed to them on the hour.

When ABC, CBS and NBC preempted their soap opera schedules for a week to cover the Simpson preliminary hearings last summer, they each lost an estimated $1 million in advertising revenue and alienated many soap opera fans.

After the preliminary hearing, there was talk at the networks about providing gavel-to-gavel coverage. However, network officials now say the strategy never was seriously considered.

Viewers seeking gavel-to-gavel coverage may turn to CNN, which will devote six hours a day to the trial, and to Court TV.

Asked whether the Simpson story merits such a commitment of air time, CNN spokesman Steve Haworth said: "We obviously feel it's warranted. If there is a development in a news story or a major story breaks in the world, we will break in to cover it."

Meanwhile, a plan by several local stations to rotate the coverage is up in the air, after the withdrawal of KNBC-TV Channel 4.

Carole Black, the station's general manager, said: "We've had very favorable response to hourly updates during the pretrial hearings." KABC-TV Channel 7 and KCOP-TV Channel 13 also have said they will not participate in the rotation.

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