Networks Have Dilemma in Impeachment Coverage

Daytime pre-empted for day one, but networks try to balance coverage with appeasing soap fans

Tom Puckett
January 22, 2020 - 4:00 am
Impeachment Senate

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) As the impeachment trial begins in the Senate, TV networks have a decision to make as far as how coverage they should air.

Lee Coppola, retired dean of St. Bonaventure School of Journalism and Mass Communication says you can't please everyone. "They have an obligation to cover the impeachment trial, but they know they will aggravate the viewers of soap operas and daytime television," says Coppola. He says that dilemma was on display Tuesday as CBS was first to cut out of wall to wall coverage. "Broadcast networks were carrying it wall to wall, and then I turn on CBS at 3, and they had the "Wendy" show on. For cable networks, this is manna from heaven for them."

Coppola says don't expect wall to wall to continue. "The networks' coverage will start to wane when they realize they're not providing that much of a service because what's happening is so procedural, it has no impact on news," says Coppola. Prime time viewers should not be inconvenienced either. "I doubt they'll interrupt prime time unless what's happening is so captivating they'll go to live coverage," says Coppola.

Former Channel 2 reporter Mike Igoe agrees about the challenge of a balance. "Whenever you have any major event like this, it's pretty much a crapshoot to get it right," says Igoe. "There's a lot of negative feelings about the way the impeachment is being handled," says Igoe.

Igoe says it's challenging for reporters to hit the salient points without getting mired in the showmanship to have a package that resonates. 

What will be the ultimate factor?  "In a 2,000 channel universe, there are so many alternatives available, so if there's enough interest in the coverage fine, but if the viewership wanes based on overnight ratings, they'll cut back," predicts Igoe. 

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