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Fox won't dance to the president's tune on Wednesday

Network will air 'So You Think You Can Dance,' not Obama's healthcare

September 05, 2009|Matea Gold

NEW YORK — In a showdown between President Obama and a reality TV dancing competition, the dancers won.

Fox announced Friday that it will not carry Obama's joint address to Congress scheduled for 8 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday, a speech that has been billed as the White House's last and best chance to regain the upper hand in the roiling healthcare debate. Instead, the network will proceed with the season premiere of "So You Think You Can Dance," followed by the debut of its dramedy "Glee" at 9 p.m.

Fox will direct viewers interested in Obama's address to its sister cable network, Fox News.

This marks the third time this year that the network will ignore a presidential appearance. In July, the network opted to air "So You Think You Can Dance" instead of a prime-time news conference Obama held on healthcare reform, a decision that helped it win the night in viewership. In April, Fox declined to carry Obama's news conference marking his 100th day in office in order to show a results episode of "American Idol."

Obama's frequent addresses to the public in prime time since taking office have frustrated the broadcast networks, which have lost millions in advertising revenue from canceled entertainment programming -- no small matter during an economic downturn. But for the most part, the pressure to cover the news and fulfill their public service obligations has outweighed the networks' financial considerations.

NBC, ABC and CBS all confirmed Friday that they will air Wednesday's speech, which will interrupt prime time on the East Coast and in the Midwest. The presidential address will bump "America's Got Talent" on NBC and "Wipeout" on ABC, which will move that show to 9 p.m. CBS is preempting repeats of "The New Adventures of Old Christine" and "Gary Unmarried" that were set to air. (The schedule for West Coast viewers will remain the same.)

With Republicans demanding equal air time to respond to the president after his speech, the networks could face further disruptions to their schedules that night if Obama's address goes longer than anticipated.

Meanwhile, the president's prime-time appearances have been welcome fodder for the cable news networks, which thrive on live news events. Along with Fox News, CNN and MSNBC plan to cover Obama's speech.

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matea.gold@latimes.com

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