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Networks Give Democrats More Air Time Than GOP


Dismissing Republican warnings not to offer "unequal coverage," the nation's television networks broadcast President Clinton's address to the Democratic National Convention on Monday night, giving the Democrats more air time than offered Republicans two weeks earlier.

GOP Chairman Jim Nicholson last week asked the big three networks to air "not a minute more" of the Democrats' gathering than they did of the Republican event in Philadelphia. There, NBC's broadcast network carried no coverage of the opening night (running extensive coverage instead on cable channel MSNBC, which draws a far smaller audience).

CBS skipped Laura Bush's speech and part of retired Gen. Colin L. Powell's address. ABC left the air before Powell finished speaking. On Monday, although CBS and NBC each skipped the first few minutes of First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's remarks, all three networks eventually picked up live coverage of her and stayed on the convention when she left the podium.

But because the event was already running late, the president didn't even start speaking until about 10:55 p.m. EDT, just as prime-time was ending on the East Coast. All told, the three networks carried about 75 minutes each of the convention.

Generally the networks strive to devote equal amounts of air time to each convention--even if they're providing less overall coverage this year than ever before.

But last week network news executives had said they would decide how to handle Monday night's coverage based on the news value.

Monday night also marked the tryout of CBS' revamped coverage. In Philadelphia, it received harsh reviews for jumping between convention coverage and unrelated "48 Hours" newsmagazine stories. Monday, anchor Dan Rather guided the audience into a newsmagazine piece about the campaign roles of the candidates' telegenic younger relatives before picking up coverage of Mrs. Clinton.

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