`Nightline' gets ABC's support

April 09, 2002|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN TELEVISION WRITER

The president of ABC has affirmed his network's commitment to continuing the two-decade run of Nightline, a month after his pursuit of talk show host David Letterman put the show's future in doubt.

Robert Iger, ABC president, declared his stand in an e-mail sent to ABC News employees yesterday. While he indirectly acknowledged the efforts by ABC and Disney, its corporate parent, to recruit Letterman from CBS, Iger yesterday called Nightline "one of the network's signature programs."

"The Walt Disney Company and ABC have always valued Nightline for the important role it plays for the network and in the national discourse," Iger wrote. "That value is particularly underscored in difficult times like these. In light of recent events, we want to renew and reaffirm our support for Nightline."

He concluded: "We look forward to working with ABC News to make a strong program even stronger in the coming years. We are confident that Nightline will continue to set a high standard for television journalism for years to come."

Iger's attempts to woo Letterman - and the advertiser-friendly younger viewers that his show attracts - blindsided top officials in the network's news division. Ultimately, the efforts fell flat, as CBS brought Letterman back in the fold, and the comic made clear he did not want to displace Ted Koppel, the show's anchor since its start.

Yet even then, Koppel wrote in an op-ed piece with his producers, it was unrealistic for ABC to expect its staff to continue as though nothing had happened without an explicit statement of support.

Yesterday, it appears he got just that. In response, Koppel said he and his colleagues would renew their commitment to the show. "It is especially gratifying for me and everyone at Nightline to have questions about the future of the broadcast so warmly and enthusiastically resolved at the highest levels of the corporation," he said in a statement released by the network.

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