PBS and NBC to work jointly on 1996 political conventions

THE BALTIMORE SUN

PBS and NBC will team up again to provide coverage of the 1996 Republican and Democratic national conventions, PBS President Ervin S. Duggan announced yesterday.

"This renewed collaboration between PBS and NBC is in keeping with PBS' strategy of forming ventures with strong media partners," Duggan said.

Convention coverage in '96 will likely resemble that of '92, he said.

During the convention, PBS viewers will see "The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour" at its usual time. Then, at 8 p.m., "The NewsHour" and NBC will begin their joint coverage on PBS stations, alternating segments anchored by Jim Lehrer and Tom Brokaw. At 10 p.m., the two will separate, with Lehrer anchoring for PBS and Brokaw for NBC.

"By combining the forces of the NBC News team led by Tom Brokaw with that of PBS and Jim Lehrer, we have created a coverage team and format that is unbeatable," NBC News President Andrew Lack said. "Viewers were very well served by this partnership in 1992."

While Lack pointed to journalism and public service as the reasons for the partnership in 1992, in fact, NBC went to PBS because it no longer wanted to carry low-rated convention coverage during prime time. The double whammy of spending extra money to cover the convention and earning less from advertising during the prime-time convention hours, was the real force behind the unprecedented pairing of commercial and public TV news operations.

It was a marriage of convenience that worked. NBC lost less money in its convention coverage, PBS earned higher ratings than it ever had, and the joint broadcasts won some modest praise from critics.

As for viewers, the joint broadcasts on PBS were the only source of continuous prime-time and post-prime-time convention coverage for those without cable -- some 30 million American homes.

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