Broadcasters to offer range of coverage of the sessions


National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System are joining forces to provide gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas that begin this week, but Maryland listeners and viewers won't be able to take full advantage of their efforts.

Baltimore NPR affiliate WJHU-FM (88.1) isn't planning to air live coverage of the hearings, while Maryland Public Television will broadcast the afternoon sessions.

The opening of the Thomas hearings Tuesday will also be carried live on cable TV's C-SPAN. C-SPAN will rebroadcast Tuesday's hearings at 8 p.m. and will air complete taped coverage of the hearings beginning at 8 p.m. each day they occur.

The NPR-PBS coverage will be aired on Washington-area radio station WAMU-FM (88.5) and public television station WETA, which is co-producing the hearings. But radio station WETA-FM (90.9) has also opted not to carry the coverage.

Cable News Network promises "extensive" but not gavel-to-gavel live coverage during the hearings.

The hearings are scheduled to run Tuesday through Friday, Sept. 16-17 and Sept. 19-20.

"Moment to moment, there isn't going to be enough interest," said Dennis Kita, general manager of WJHU, explaining his station's decision not to air the coverage. "There's a lot of legalese and a lot of procedural garbage involved with gavel-to-gavel coverage."

But he left open the possibility that WJHU would reconsider its position "if events warrant it. We're not afraid to make last-minute decisions."

MPT cannot air the morning sessions of the hearings because of a commitment to the state Department of Education to carry instructional programming from 9:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., said Michael Styer, MPT's senior vice president for broadcasting. But Mr. Styer said MPT "will pick up the hearings from 1:30 on and carry them to their conclusion."

The NPR-PBS coverage marks the first time the organizations have collaborated on covering a news event.

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