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In coverage battle, PBS blinks, moves `War'

February 05, 2007|Lynn Smith | Times Staff Writer

When reporters speak, PBS listens.

In January, journalists at the Television Critics Assn. tour questioned the wisdom of PBS launching Ken Burns' series "The War" on Sept. 17 -- the same week commercial networks debut their new fall programs. Since that week is dedicated to coverage of broadcast premieres, PBS would get leftover space, if any at all, they said. One week either before or after would give "War" more coverage, they said.

"If you have friends in the room who love your stuff and we can't give it the space that we want to because you're determined to play chicken -- and you lose every time -- what's the definition of insanity?" one asked.

On Feb. 1, John Boland, PBS' chief content officer, issued a letter to TCA members announcing that the series would be pushed back a week to Sept. 23.

"In setting the official broadcast schedule for 'The War,' we took a number of factors into consideration, including your important concerns," he said.

The official schedule-change announcement, however, mentioned only their other concerns: multiple platform rollout and Burns' own plans. Not to mention the fact that Sept. 23 marks the 17th anniversary of Burns' "The Civil War."

lynn.smith@latimes.com

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