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Station reverses policy on broadcasting results

October 30, 1992

KREM-TV won’t wait for polls to close

By Tom Sowa
The Spokesman-Review

One day after declaring it would not broadcast network election news broadcasts until polls here closed, a Spokane TV station reversed that decision and said it would.

KREM-TV, Spokane’s CBS network affiliate, told viewers Wednesday it believed early projections before 8 p.m. could reduce regional voter turnout and said it would only offer local results up to then.

The station’s news director Paul Brandt said Thursday the station changed its mind. “We’ve checked with a number of sources that had been used to support that opinion,” he said, adding the information on projections doesn’t back up that argument.

KREM (Channel 2) was one of four West Coast stations that told CBS it would follow suggestions from government officials and voter groups not to carry network newscasts until polls closed.

KREM, along with CBS affiliates in Sacramento, Calif., Portland and Eugene, Ore., planned to carry programs like “Murphy Brown” or local news until 8 p.m. on election night. Those stations’ viewers would have had to turn to another newscast to find nationwide presidential results.

Many viewers would have probably done that, Brandt said, costing KREM ratings and lost revenue during one of the most heavily viewed TV nights of the year.

Spokane’s other affiliates, KXLY-TV (Channel 4) and KHQ (Channel 6), never considered blocking out their network news programs. All three Seattle news stations, including CBS affiliate KIRO, have said they will carry national newscasts before 8 p.m. The other CBS West Coast affiliates intending to black out CBS news until 8 p.m. have not reversed those plans.

Brandt said he spoke Thursday with another West Coast news director and with a researcher who uses exit poll data to help the three networks in making projections.

Both conversations left him doubting the argument that TV or radio projections keep West Coast residents from voting, Brandt said.

In 1988, the networks projected George Bush as the winner at 6:00 p.m. Pacific time. Some insisted that announcement drastically cut West Coast voter turnout.

Tom Goodman, a CBS News spokesman, said affiliates have the right to black out network newscasts. But the network regards that decision as unnecessary, as CBS would not announce the winners in Washington elections until after 8 p.m. anyway.

In the case of a tight presidential election, the debate over impact on voters is moot, Goodman said. “In that case we would not be making a presidential projection until voters were finished in the West, by 8 or maybe even 9,” he said. On Wednesday KREM even interviewed CBS anchor Dan Rather, who argued that TV news stations have the responsibility of providing election information as quickly as it happens.

But then KREM general manager Barry Barth went on camera, editorializing the station saw a higher need not to influence voters with network projections.

On Thursday, Barth and Brandt agreed they’d have to go before viewers again and explain the reversal. “We’ll also probably do a news story soon citing why we’re doing this,” he said.

Friday, October 30, 1992

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From → KREM

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