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TV Notes: News executives believe terrorist attack coverage important to continue

Saturday, September 15, 2001

Mindful of television's role as a national gathering place in a time of emergency, news executives said they're being careful not to inflame viewers or show graphic material from the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

ABC, CBS, NBC and the cable news networks had no plans to end their continuous coverage.

"This is the most important story of my lifetime," said NBC News President Neal Shapiro. "I think it's our job to stay on the air."

An estimated 79.5 million people watched coverage of the attack Tuesday night, Nielsen Media Research said. That didn't quite reach the level of January's Super Bowl, which drew 84 million viewers, but Nielsen noted its numbers didn't reflect who watched during the day.

NBC led the ratings Tuesday night (22.4 million), followed by ABC (17.6 million), CBS (14.4 million) and Fox (6.1 million). Viewership on those four networks was up 47 percent from Sept. 11, 2000.

Locally, WPXI was the most-watched station in prime time Tuesday, followed by WTAE and KDKA. For the day both Tuesday and Wednesday, sign-on to sign-off, WTAE was first. KDKA was second Tuesday, third Wednesday (WPXI was third Tuesday, second Wednesday).

Network news chiefs uniformly expressed pride in how their profession has performed this week. That doesn't mean they've always agreed. For example, all had access to video depicting victims jumping from the World Trade Center to certain deaths; CBS showed it, ABC refused.

CBS News president Andrew Heyward noted the impact was not shown.

"It was not some sort of gratuitous, individual tragedy where we were exploiting someone's personal pain for some kind of sensational purpose," he said. "Quite the opposite. This was absolutely germane to the context of the story and vividly conveyed the sheer horror in a way that was journalistically appropriate."

CNN showed images of things falling from the World Trade Center, but they weren't necessarily identifiable as humans, CNN Chairman Walter Isaacson said. NBC showed footage of a body falling once and decided not to anymore. The same was true at Fox News Channel.

"I don't think it's an easy call," NBC's Shapiro said. "I don't condemn anybody who chose to run it."

Fox News Channel won't show video it has of body parts strewn around the rubble, said Bill Shine, network executive producer.

NBC is being careful in its wording to not equate Islam with extremism even if some of the religion's believers masterminded the attack, Shapiro said.

Until New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announced that 4,763 people were missing at the World Trade Center, networks had generally been careful not to guess on the number of casualties.

Media outlets also reported Thursday that five firefighters trapped since Tuesday had been rescued from the trade center rubble, but it later turned out that only two who were trapped in an air pocket for several hours Thursday were found alive.

(David Bauder, Associated Press)

Fall premieres delayed

Due to the terrorist attack this past week, some of America's broadcast networks have delayed the premiere of new and returning series listed in tomorrow's TV Week in the Post-Gazette.

ABC and CBS announced Thursday that they will push back their new fall season schedules by a week, joining NBC.

Some premiere dates will remain intact, including those for ABC's "The Practice" (Sept. 23), "Alias" (Sept. 30) and "The Job" (Oct. 10). Likewise, NBC's "Law & Order Criminal Intent" (Sept. 30), "UC: Undercover" (Sept. 30) and "Ed" (Oct. 16) and CBS's "The Education of Max Bickford" (Sept. 23) will premiere as scheduled.

CBS's "Wolf Lake" will debut on Wednesday, and the second episode of "The Amazing Race" will air that night as well. The finale of "Big Brother 2" is still slated for Thursday, with a two-hour episode airing Tuesday (tonight's episode will be pre-empted).

Fox has pushed back the premiere of prime-time soap "Pasadena" to Sept. 28 (film from the series was stuck in Canada, where the show is filmed, due to the grounding of aircraft this week), but other series will premiere as planned. The premiere of "Grounded for Life" has been pushed up to Wednesday from Nov. 7. "Love Cruise," a limited-run reality series, will premiere Tuesday at 9 p.m.

The WB announced Thursday it would postpone the premieres of three new comedies scheduled for Friday night "in recognition of the national day of prayer and remembrance."

UPN plans to air its premieres, which don't begin until the debut of "Enterprise" on Sept. 26, as planned.

(Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor)

Emmys rescheduled

CBS announced yesterday that the prime-time Emmy Awards, originally scheduled to air tomorrow, will now air Oct. 7. The awards telecast was delayed in the wake of this week's terrorist attacks.

"Traditionally, the Emmys are a tribute to the television industry," read a CBS press release. "However, on this night, the industry will also join together with the nation to reaffirm the spirit of the American people."

(R. O.)

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