After expanding their nightly coverage of the major political party conventions in 2008, the nation’s broadcast networks have decided to cut back this year. As a result, Ann Romney, wife of Republican candidate Mitt Romney, will be completely ignored when she speaks at the GOP convention next Monday in Tampa, Florida.
Between them, the broadcast nets still attract a significant plurality of American television viewers. While online news consumption has grown drastically, the vast majority of video, 94 percent, consumed by Americans is via their television sets, meaning that Romney will have a harder time introducing himself to non-political voters than President Barack Obama did four years ago.
Instead of covering Romney’s speech, ABC and CBS will be showing reruns of cop shows. NBC is taking a different path by showing a new episode of a cop show. Because there just aren’t enough of those on the boob tube.
Needless to say, the snub of Ann Romney has GOP officials upset as the New York Times's Jeremy Peters reports:
Advisers to Mitt Romney, facing a blackout of the opening-night program they fastidiously scripted to soften perceptions of the candidate, are angry.
“I don’t think it’s the decision that Bill Paley would have made,” said Russ Schriefer, a senior Romney adviser, referring to the executive who ran CBS during the days of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite.
The campaign is considering whether to move Mrs. Romney’s speech to another night, though it is proceeding for now with the Monday night plans.
While the coverage reductions are going to harm Romney more than the already very-well-known Obama, both parties will be affected as the broadcast networks will be devoting only 3 total hours of airtime to the Republican and Democratic conventions. The expansion four years ago was only one additional hour.
For the Democratic convention in early September, ABC and CBS intend to follow the same Tuesday through Thursday coverage with one hour of coverage those nights. NBC, which has become known for its allegiance to Democrats through is cable news channel, will actually skip Monday and Wednesday nights. During the latter evening, it will be showing the NFL season opener matchup of the New York Giants versus the Dallas Cowboys. The Fox network traditionally has never provided convention coverage as it turns over its 10pm ET/PT 9pm CT/MT hour to affiliates.
It's hard to say that the cutbacks this year are due to a political agenda, instead it seems more of a tacit admission that broadcast news, while still far more influential than cable news, is not as relevant to the nation or to the television networks who pay for it.