- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Patriotic optimism radiating from the Republican National Convention has proved a good match for the Fox News Channel, which is winning the ratings race among news channels this week.

Fox’s prime-time audience averaged more than 4 million viewers Tuesday night, with viewership peaking during first lady Laura Bush’s heart-to-heart talk with the nation, bringing the audience up to 5.2 million. Robust speechifying by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger attracted 5.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen numbers released yesterday.

CNN’s average audience for the night was 1.1 million; and MSNBC’s, 1.2 million.

PBS, which offered a generous three hours of nightly convention coverage, brought in 1.9 million viewers — slightly more than the network had during the 2000 Republican convention.

The Democratic convention belonged to CNN last month, however. The network had 2.9 million viewers nightly during the Boston event, while MSNBC and Fox tied with 1.8 million each.

Some broadcast network correspondents dismissed the Republican Party’s moments of good feeling last night, though.

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s speeches, NBC’s Tom Brokaw said, “Things are not going well in many parts of the world for the United States. Despite the speeches tonight of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Laura Bush, this is a very difficult time in Iraq; the war on terrorism is an uncertain trumpet.”

ABC’s Peter Jennings, meanwhile, compared the Republican Party with the New York Yankees, who were beaten Tuesday night by the Cleveland Indians.

“It’s amazing that network anchors get 30 minutes every night for four years to whack away at this president, and they can’t tolerate one hour of rebuttal,” said Brent Bozell of the conservative Media Research Center (MRC) yesterday.

“If they hate the convention’s success this much, perhaps they ought to pick up a sign and take their protests out to the streets, and let someone who can report the news straight take their place,” Mr. Bozell said.

The anchors did not have too much time to get their licks in, though.

Canny convention planners filled the 10-to-11 p.m. hour with compelling speakers, leaving only three minutes for the eager broadcasters to comment before their parsimonious hour of nightly coverage came to an end.

And in the wake of Mrs. Bush’s speech, a new poll shows that first ladies can influence the election. Lifetime Television yesterday released an online survey of viewers, which found that 64 percent of them agreed “their impression of the presidential candidates’ wives is important to them as they make their decision for whom to vote.” Daughters of the candidates, however, influenced only 30 percent.

The convention has afforded President Bush a bounce both with the public and a “defanged” press, the National Journal’s Hotline noted yesterday.

“By trotting out press faves like Rudy [Giuliani], [John] McCain and Arnold [Schwarzenegger], the Bushies were guaranteed positive reviews. … The press is set up to write a Bush comeback story for the weekend.”

And while protesters marched on Fox News offices Tuesday, the demonstrators took on the entire Fourth Estate last night, staging a free-for-all “March on the Media.”

“For the past few years, the mainstream media have marched in lockstep with the Bush administration. Now it’s time to march on the media,” organizers told their followers.

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

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