Facing TV networks, the White House blinks

April 29, 2005|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

Late yesterday, the Bush administration found itself in a showdown with network television, and it was the White House that blinked, changing the starting time of last night's presidential news conference to accommodate CBS and Fox.

Initially, President Bush was scheduled to meet the press at 8:30 p.m. However, that would have interrupted hourlong entertainment series on the first night of May "sweeps," when audiences are measured to determine advertising rates.

CBS, with one of the higher-rated 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. programs in the reality series Survivor: Palau, said it would not carry the news conference. Fox said it would stick with its teen drama The O.C.

But last night, both networks announced that they would carry the news conference after a change in starting time that would allow them to slide their lineups back an hour. For CBS, that meant Survivor at 9 p.m. and the hit show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation at 10 p.m.

Without a Trace, the regular 10 p.m. series on CBS, would be pre-empted, giving the network an extra episode to air at the end of May.

The change enabled Fox to keep its hourlong dramas on track. ABC and NBC, which had agreed to carry Bush's address at 8:30 p.m., went along with the switch.

While confirming the change, spokesmen for Fox and CBS said they could not explain it.

"The only reason I know ... is that I got a call at five minutes to 6, saying we are carrying the president," said Scott Grogin, a Fox spokesman.

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