- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Seems like old times.

Once again, the three broadcast networks will eke out a paltry 60 minutes of convention coverage each night when the Republican Party convenes in New York next week, leaving the 24-hour news channels to plumb the event from every possible angle.

But even amid the hubbub, the liberal bias could flourish.

When the Democrats were center stage last month, broadcast and cable networks offered them “rock-star coverage,” according to the Media Research Center (MRC) — complete with fawning correspondents and candidate adulation.

The MRC’s Brent Baker doubts there will be similar treatment for Republicans.

“Suddenly, the ideology of the party will become a prominent issue,” Mr. Baker predicted yesterday. “The pundits will accuse Republicans of trying to mask their ‘right-wing element’ by putting Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Michael Bloomberg front and center to send a message of moderation to the public.”

Mr. Baker continued, “The networks weren’t so concerned about whether the Democrats were trying to mask their liberalness, as I recall.”

Meanwhile, ABC, NBC and CBS will offer their short take on the GOP from 10 to 11 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, though ABC will offer a special live report during “Monday Night Football” halftime.

There is a price for such brevity: Scheduled speeches by Mr. McCain, the senator from Arizona, and Mr. Giuliani, the former New York mayor, will not make it on the air, at least on the broadcast networks.

Critics have condemned this treatment. They include PBS anchor Jim Lehrer, who observed after the Democratic convention, “The fact that you three networks decided [the convention] was not important enough to run in prime time, the message that gives the American people is huge.”

PBS itself will offer three hours of coverage each night.

The motto at C-SPAN, meanwhile, is “All convention. No filler.” Between viewer call-in shows, specials, live coverage and repeat broadcasts in the wee hours, the public affairs channel will feature the convention commercial-free virtually 24 hours a day.

News channels will broadcast gavel-to-gavel coverage from within Madison Square Garden — and then some.

MSNBC has picked a spot on Herald Square — about a block from the convention — for its main broadcast perch, occupied by Chris Matthews and Ron Reagan, among others, each night.

CNN, however, has taken over the vintage Tick Tock Diner on Eighth Avenue as a kind of ultimate set where the network will broadcast “Crossfire” and court delegates and other guests with hamburgers and malteds.

“The diner experience has become a mainstay of national politics,” says CNN Vice President Princell Hair. “We thought a New York City diner would be a fitting location to share the convention with our viewers.”

Not to be outdone, music channel VH-1 will broadcast “The Fabulous Life: Bush vs. Kerry Bling Off” on opening night to determine “which candidate has the best homes, the ‘blingier’ bride and can boast the best ride,” a statement said.

Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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