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CBS Affiliate Criticizes Coverage

February 21, 1998

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) _ The managing editor for a CBS affiliate criticized the network’s coverage of the Olympics, telling viewers the station was disappointed the telecasts did not live up to their hype.

``There’s not much that’s really memorable,″ said WHNT Managing Editor Bob Knowles at the top of Thursday’s 10 p.m newscast. ``Here at Newschannel 19, we had hoped the coverage would live up to the hyped expectations.″

CBS is on track to post the lowest Olympic ratings since 1968. Bad weather and the time difference with Japan have had something to do with the drop, but Knowles complained to viewers that those weren’t the only reasons for his disappointment.

Reading from a prepared statement, Knowles said the station was embarrassed after CBS cut away for commercials twice during the Opening Ceremonies rendition of ``Ode to Joy.″

``I remember the opening night broadcast,″ Knowles said. ``I was embarrassed, too. But there was nothing WHNT could do about that show or the rest of the Olympic schedule.″

Peter Schruth, CBS senior vice-president and general manager of affiliate relations, called WHNT’s critique ``highly unusual.″

``But it’s a free (country),″ Schruth said. ``They can broadcast what they want on their local news.

Schruth said Friday he couldn’t recall another example of an affiliate station leading off a news program by criticizing its network.

WHNT general manager Linda Spalla said viewers were caught up in the ``spirit and the patriotism″ of the Olympics, but also were turned off by the network’s presentation. In an unscientific survey conducted by the station, 77 percent of the more than 1,000 respondents said CBS wasn’t doing a good job.

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