Changes in regular programming depend on level of conflict


January 14, 1991|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

Special programming on the Persian Gulf crisis is planned for tonight and tomorrow evening, but network executives say most regularly scheduled shows will air as usual unless developments occur.

For the first part of this week, all regular news and information programming -- from the morning shows to late-night news programs -- will focus on the Gulf. If war breaks out, NBC, ABC and CBS all say entertainment programming could be pre-empted for news during the conflict's first week.

"It will depend on the level of conflict," Robert Iger, president of ABC Entertainment said. "And we just don't know at this point. We have to be flexible."

Special coverage now scheduled includes:

*An ABC News special with Peter Jennings tonight at 8 on WJZ-TV (Channel 13).

*CNN's "A Question of War" interviews with Mideast leaders each night at 8.

*A PBS "Frontline" special, "To The Brink of War," with Hodding Carter, tomorrow at 9 on MPT (Channels 22 and 67).

Network executives said plans for deployment of anchors had not been finalized as of this weekend. They stressed that everything is subject to change at a moment's notice depending on whether there is war and the "level of engagement."

But as it stands now, it appears ABC will have Peter Jennings in New York and Ted Koppel in the Middle East. NBC's Tom Brokaw was in Baghdad this weekend but the network was not sure how long he would remain. Brokaw is expected, however, to remain in the Middle East, with Jane Pauly at the anchor desk in New York. CNN is expected to have Bernard Shaw in Washington. CBS is uncertain whether Dan Rather will be in New York or the Middle East.

Citing "security reasons," the networks have refused to specify numbers of correspondents, photographers and producers deployed in the Gulf region. But the "ballpark figures" are about 50 for ABC, CBS and NBC, and about 90 to 100 for CNN.

All four networks have personnel in Baghdad. NBC and CNN said their crews in Baghdad, of 6 and 7 people respectively, will stay as long as they can. CBS and ABC declined comment on personnel in Baghdad.


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