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CBS gives 3 primetime hours to violence docu

Continuing the push toward a more active role in the violence debate, CBS News said it will devote an entire night of primetime to the topic with a three-hour documentary that the web expects to air in fourth quarter ’94.

CBS News president Eric Ober said the special will be part of 12 hours of “CBS Reports” programming for the current calendar year, including a two-hour special on the 50th anniversary of D-Day in June.

Officials rejected the notion that the media may have contributed to public perceptions and fear regarding violence with such programs. “I don’t think there’s enough we can do on that subject,” said Joe Peyronnin, CBS News VP for primetime. NBC has its own weeklong exploration of the violence issue planned for Jan. 23-29.

News brass at the TV critics tour in Pasadena also said they expect their untitled fourth news hour, formerly “Street Stories,” to premiere during the second quarter, and confirmed conversations with syndicated radio talkshow host Rush Limbaugh to provide commentary on the program.

They acknowledged, as well, that plans to expand CBS Newsnet, their satellite feed to affiliates, were aimed at curbing stations’ reliance on syndicated material from CNN or other news services.

Weaning from CNN

“We’ll give (affiliates) the opportunity to decide whether they still want to be dependent on CNN,” Ober said, noting that CNN doesn’t provide exclusive material, unlike Newsnet. The expanded service will include more daily feeds, placing more personnel around the U.S. to improve breaking-news coverage (there are currently 14 bureaus) and enlarging the service’s news center. CBS said it hopes the plan will strengthen ties between CBS News and local news departments at its stations.

Connie-Dan still on

Seven months after the change, Ober said CBS is “not second-guessing the decision” to pair Connie Chung with Dan Rather on “The CBS Evening News,” despite a slip in the broadcast’s competitive position. He admitted there had been cosmetic problems, such as physical proximity of the two anchors, that had been corrected.

The exec also defended the exclusive interview Chung landed on the magazine “Eye to Eye” with Heidi Fleiss, saying the network wasn’t guilty of pandering because the story had become national news. “Not a single network newsmagazine didn’t go after her,” he noted.

White House worries

Ober acknowledged that CBS and other news divisions were miffed about ABC’s behind-the-scenes access to President Clinton with Ted Koppel during his Euro trip, which has been featured on “Nightline” this week.

CBS officials also admitted that they were “interested” in Diane Sawyer, whose contract at ABC News will soon expire.

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