Network news budgets have become casualties of the Persian Gulf war

March 09, 1991|By David N. Rosenthal | David N. Rosenthal,Knight-Ridder

If you think you have budget troubles, you ought to try balancing the books for the network news departments in the wake of the war.

If NBC's war costs -- almost $45 million in expenses and lost ad revenues, the network says -- are similar to those of ABC and CBS, it means the trio has spent about $135 million covering the war.

We don't know for sure, because only NBC is saying how much the coverage cost it, but it's unlikely that the numbers are very different for the other guys.

The bad news is that it probably means more cuts in departments that have already been ravaged by the bean-counters in recent years.

If there's one thing the war demonstrated vividly, it is that network newscasts and network news coverage are a long way from the extinction that has been predicted for years.

Local stations cannot cover momentous international events like the war. They don't have the expertise or the bodies to do so.

The networks do, but if the bottom-line boys continue to be the ultimate decision-makers, it's going to be a lot tougher to cover something like the Persian Gulf war in the future.

Meanwhile, CNN, which says its costs for the war will run in the $12 million to $15 million range, has moved back to a peace footing, restoring its regular schedule and shows like "Show Biz Today," which disappeared during the fighting.

Along with the new schedule, the cable network has a raft of new anchor pairings, the commutations and permutations of which are too numerous to go into here.

But the big news is that as of Monday, Baghdad bomb-witness Bernard Shaw has a new co-anchor. She is Susan Rook and she'll share "Primenews" and "CNN Evening News" with Shaw, with him in Washington and her in Atlanta.

Prior to the war, he had been paired with former judge Catherine Crier, who will now handle "The International Hour" and "The World Today" with Frank Sesno, who leaves the White House to come into the studio.

The Shaw-Crier team had gotten attention when it began a year and a half ago because she came straight from the bench and he didn't like being paired with an inexperienced anchor.

It's not known if his complaints had anything to do with her move, but you can bet his feelings now carry more weight with the people who decide such things than they did before Jan. 16.

Steve McKerrow is on vacation. His column will resume next week.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.