You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Report calls for Congress to act on b’casters

Report urges nets to wait for closed polls before projecting winners

When President Bush embraced the National Commission on Federal Election Reform’s report Tuesday, he delivered a blow to the nation’s broadcasters.

In the report, the commission — headed by former Presidents Carter and Ford — urged cable and broadcast nets to wait until the polls have closed in the 48 contiguous states before projecting winners in the presidential election.

“This would be hopefully a voluntary commitment by the (media),” Carter said at a press conference. “If they don’t do it, then we recommend that Congress take action.”

In accepting the report, Bush said that it “identified some important concerns … for example, the overeagerness of the media to report the outcome of elections.” The White House appeared to be doing some spin control following the release of the report, saying that Bush has not yet endorsed each of the panel’s recommendations.

The report also recommended that broadcast nets provide each of the presidential candidates with five minutes of free airtime during the 30 days leading up to the election — an idea that angered broadcasters.

“Most stations already give free airtime, but we oppose government mandated free time,” said a spokesman for the National Assn. of Broadcasters.

In fact, network execs have contended in the past that candidates don’t always take advantage of free time offered.

Apologies made

The report was prompted by the numerous snafus during last year’s presidential election. In February, network news toppers were called to Washington to testify before a congressional panel over botched election calls. Even before then, networks offered repeated mea culpas for bad Election Night calls, instituting a number of reforms. NBC, CBS, ABC and CNN all issued internal reports about what went wrong on Election Night and recommendations for how the problems could be rectified.

Nets have largely agreed not to project a winner in any state until after the last poll has closed in that state and advocate a national poll closing time.

But, they also resent governmental interference in what they see as a First Amendment issue.

“Everybody wants to see the system work efficiently, but legislation is not the remedy,” said one network news exec. “It seems antithetical to democracy to ask news organizations to withhold information they would otherwise report immediately.”

Broadcasters are taking a beating these days when it comes to the role they play in the electoral process.

Earlier this year, the TV industry was caught off guard when the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved campaign finance legislation forcing broadcasters to offer across-the-board, discounted rates for political ads. The legislation is now stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives, but is expected to come up for a vote early this fall, with the broadcast provision intact.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Breaking Bad Movie

    'Breaking Bad' Movie: Watch the First Teaser for 'El Camino'

    In case you hadn’t heard, Emmy-winning drama “Breaking Bad” is cooking up a movie sequel. On Saturday, after details of Netflix’s project quietly leaked online, the streaming giant issued the first teaser for “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,” which will be released on October 11. Starring Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, the “Breaking Bad” [...]

  • Breaking Bad

    'Breaking Bad' Movie Release Date, Title and Plot Revealed

    The “Breaking Bad” movie is coming to Netflix sooner than you might think. The film, titled “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,” is now set to be released on Netflix on Oct. 11, according to a report from the New York Times, with Aaron Paul returning as the series’ popular meth cook Jesse Pinkman. Jesse [...]

  • Laurence FishburneNational Memorial Day Concert Dress

    Laurence Fishburne to Produce 'Marvel's Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur' Series for Disney Channel

    Laurence Fishburne is stepping into the animation game. The “Matrix” star is set to executive produce “Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur,” an animated series which has been given the greenlight at Disney Channel. Based on Marvel’s comic book series, the show hails from from Disney Television Animation and follows the adventures of 13-year-old super-genius [...]

  • Aracne

    Chile’s Sanfic, Mexico’s Morbido Fest Pact to Promote Latino Horror (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mexican horror festival Morbido and Chile’s Santiago Intl. Film Festival (Sanfic) have agreed on a long-term collaboration intended to strengthen the genre film industry in Chile and across Latin America. This partnership will see Morbido representatives attend the Sanfic industry section each year to aid in the promotion of horror projects and advise those projects [...]

  • 'The Simpsons' Producers on Disney, Spinoffs

    'The Simpsons' Producers Talk Potential Disney Spinoffs, Confirm Apu Will Remain

    “The Simpsons” has never shied away from lampooning Disney over the years, but maybe that’s no longer the case. Homer, Marge and co. are of course now part of the Disney family and made their first appearance at the Mouse House’s D23 Expo convention, where the show’s producers were asked plenty of questions about what [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content