Arledge touts webs, criticizes tabloid TV

ABC News president Roone Arledge praised the power of the Big Three broadcast networks in the face of a changing media landscape but expressed concerns about tabloid television in remarks at the National Assn. of Broadcasters confab here.

Citing CBS’ strong ratings success with its coverage of the Winter Olympics, Arledge said there is no better way to reach the American public.

The share for network news is 60%, he said, with seven out of 10 Americans still getting their news from the networks and their local TV stations.

But news is far from perfect. “There are important problems we have to deal with,” Arledge said.

One problem he cited is violence on newscasts. Pointing to the example of the networks’ coverage of the violence in Somalia, including showing a dead American soldier being dragged through the street, Arledge said there is no way out of showing such footage. The nation’s leaders, he said, have to find a way to deal with the fact that such footage can sometimes galvanize the public and put politicians on the spot.

Arledge also took shots at network news anchors going tabloid. “Don’t put your anchors at the skating rink,” Arledge said in reference to CBS’ decision to have anchor Connie Chung tag along with figure skater Tonya Harding throughout the Winter Olympics. News divisions need to “distinguish” themselves from tabloid shows, Arledge said.

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