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Broadcast TV Dominates GOP’s ‘Domestic Agenda Night’

August 19, 1992

NEW YORK (AP) _ With the major networks’ Tuesday night convention coverage cut to the bone, broadcast viewers relied on the NBC-PBS joint coverage of the Republican National Convention for early prime time.

ABC, CBS, and NBC’s independent coverage of the GOP-styled ″domestic agenda night″ wouldn’t begin until 10 p.m. EDT, and here’s what viewers DIDN’T see on broadcast TV:

CNN’s ″Crossfire″ co-host John Sununu, the former New Hampshire governor and ex-White House chief of staff, exchanging heated views with James Carville, Gov. Bill Clinton’s top political operative.

″Governor, I’m not on the White House staff 3/8 Don’t bully me ’round 3/8″ protested a seemingly anguished Carville. It was like watching pit bulls at play. You had to be there.

Still, PBS-NBC’s early coverage was very good because there wasn’t all that much to see. In fact, C-SPAN, with its 19 cameras free of the network pool showed exactly how much there was not to see: GOP Chairman Rich Bond’s call to order with Monstro the Teenage gavel, the parading of the colors, the pledge of allegiance, the national anthem and the GOP’s ″America My Home″ promotional video.

And lots and lots of speeches by a parade of GOP VIPs. PBS-NBC and CNN cut to addresses by EPA administrator William Reilly on the environment and Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan on health.

Both also showed Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, the Republican successor to Michael Dukakis, tell the convention he favored a woman’s right to choose, prompting simultaneous boos and applause.

PBS analysts David Gergen and Mark Shields noted that the Republicans had let a pro-choice speaker have the podium, while the Democrats had not let an anti-abortion speaker address their convention.

At 10 p.m. EDT, NBC split from PBS and the Big Three opened their coverage, with anchors Peter Jennings of ABC and Dan Rather of CBS working the floor.

PBS stuck with Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and stayed with former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, who introduced another former quarterback, HUD secretary Jack Kemp.

NBC picked up Kemp’s speech. ABC joined it ″in progress.″ CBS stayed with floor reports and went to a commercial before joining Kemp’s speech midway.

The keynote speech of Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, was seen in full only on ABC and PBS among the broadcast networks. CBS and NBC chopped off the beginning with commercials, and NBC cut away a few minutes before it ended shortly after 11 p.m.

A highlight of the evening was a live interview by PBS’ Judy Woodruff with Barbara Bush in which the first lady chided the reporter for her questions.

″Where were you during the Democratic convention, defending us?″ Mrs. Bush genially scolded Ms. Woodruff, who replied that she hoped she’d been there asking fair questions.

″You were not. You were not,″ Mrs. Bush insisted, smiling.

That was a great TV moment, and, despite the ubiquity of cable’s CNN and C- SPAN, broadcast TV was there to catch it.

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