FEW GLITCHES DURING ELECTION-NIGHT COVERAGE
The television networks kept their promise not to declare a winner until all of the polls closed on the West Coast Tuesday night. Some viewers found their reticence frustrating. In the Chicago Tribune, TV columnist Phil Rosenberg wrote that as he watched he kept "thinking of what it would be like for a weathercaster who shows his audience radar pictures of a hurricane as its heads toward shore but isn't supposed to tell you that it almost certainly will hit the coast." But almost at the stroke of the clock at 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the broadcast and cable news programs unanimously declared Barack Obama the winner. Several news anchors appeared to throw restraint to the wind, some even tearing up on camera. On Fox, which had been reporting resurgent support for John McCain in recent days, the reports of Obama's victory in key swing states sounded "funereal" to some TV columnists. But after Obama's victory address, Fox anchor Brit Hume became a vocal part of the Obama admiration society. "It really seems possible that this remarkable man will be someone truly and remarkably different, who can lift us out of the partisan differences that divide us," Hume said. Later he chided the Republican efforts to paint Obama as a radical sympathizer. "The man who stood and spoke to America the past year or two was just not somebody that you would look at and say, 'That's a radical.' It just didn't comport," Hume said. Andrew O'Hehir, who writes about the media for the left-leaning online magazine Salon, commented, "I'm damned if Fox didn't handle the chore with class and professionalism."
THE HOLLYWOOD PRESIDENT?
Daily Variety , in a front-page commentary, made the case that Obama owed much of his success to his television strategy. "His image is that of someone who's in touch with people. A big part of that was tapping into popular culture beyond the news media, as he connected with audiences on late-night talk shows, EntertainmentTonight and Access Hollywood and, before his campaign even began, The Oprah Winfrey Show." The trade publication also noted: "It's debatable whether Obama will cozy up to showbiz in the way that JFK and Bill Clinton did. Hollywood and its businesses don't seem a top priority to him. But that's OK with Hollywood. ... Hollywood made its bet on his candidacy, and played a big part in elevating his status to more than a mere candidate but into a pop culture icon."
THE FORCE IS WITH TV NEWS CHANNELS
CNN at times had the look of a special-effects movie during its election coverage Tuesday night, expecially when its in-studio team discussed the results with correspondent Jessica Yellin in the field, who appeared on the set as a 3-D hologram. It sometimes appeared as if the coverage were part of a Star Wars movie, what with the hologram image colored with a blue caste and outlined with a white halo. Indeed at one point, Yellin remarked, "I feel like Princess Leia." Newsweek's online site commented that "it was a cheesy, gratuitous technique." CNN also had a chance to feature its "Magic Map," a touch-screen map displaying the electoral vote composition that outshone similar screens employed by rival news channels. All in all, the television and cable networks handled their election coverage without the embarrassing glitches that have plagued them in previous elections. On Comedy Central, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert parodied the election coverage (when Stewart would remark that it was "a historic night," Colbert would incorrectly correct him, saying that it was "An historic night") during a one-hour special. The broadcast, which was scheduled to end at 11:00 p.m., stayed on the air for a moment past that witching hour so that Stewart could announce in all seriousness, "I would just like to say, if I may ... that at 11 o'clock at night, Eastern Standard Time, the president of the United States is Barack Obama." (That event actually will occur on January 20.)
THE INTERNET TO GO "ON THE AIR"
The FCC on Tuesday approved the use of the so-called "white spaces" between television channels for wireless Internet access, thereby setting in motion the creation of a nationwide broadband service that will eventually be available to users without charge any place where television signals can be received. The system is expected to be slower than cable or DSL but comparable to the speed of cellular systems. Receivers are expected to be built into laptop computers and other mobile devices by next year. Broadcasters, however, have warned that the broadband service could cause interference with their signals and accused the FCC of threatening television transmission to satisfy the demands of Google and Microsoft, the principal backers of the wireless technology. Dennis Wharton, executive vice president of the National Association of Broadcasters said, "Every American who values interference-free TV should be concerned by today's commission vote. But on his blog, Google co-founder Larry Page praised the FCC action, saying, "For years the broadcasting lobby and others have tried to spread fear and confusion about this technology, rather than allow the FCC's engineers to simply do their work."
SUPREME COURT HEARS DIRTY-WORDS CASE
The Supreme Court on Tuesday began hearing oral arguments on whether the fleeting use of expletives on live television should be banned by the FCC. Neither lawyers nor the justices uttered the expletives themselves during the hearing, referring only to "the f-word" or "the s-word." Two of the justices, John Roberts and Antonin Scalia, seemed to favor the FCC ban, with Roberts observing that the words are used for "shocking value" and are "associated with sexual or excretory activity." Scalia commented that broadcasters have contributed to a "coarsening" of society. On the other hand, Justice John Paul Stevens observed that the occasional use of such words may be "really hilarious, very, very funny." And Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg took note of the fact that the FCC failed to chastise broadcasters when they aired the movie Saving Private Ryan, expletives included. "There seems to be no rhyme or reason when the commission says that one of these words is OK and when it says it isn't."
CBS REMAINS ON TOP
CBS continued its season-long dominance of the Nielsen ratings last week among overall households and in the advertiser-desired demographic of adults 18-49. The network posted a 7.2 rating and a 12 share for the week. ABC, helped once again by its two editions of Dancing With the Stars, came in second with an average 6.4/10. Fox, which received a boost from Game 5 of the World Series, which was divided into two nights because of a rain delay, came in third with a 5.8/9. But NBC drew low ratings, averaging a 4.8/8, with most of its regular lineup, except for Sunday Night Football.
The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. Dancing With the Stars (Monday), ABC, 12.0/18; 2. World Series Game 5 Conclusion, Fox, 11.9/18; 3. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 11.7/18; 4. Dancing With the Stars (Tuesday), ABC, 11./16; 5. NCIS, CBS, 10.8/16; 6. Sunday Night Football, NBC, 10.6/16; 7. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 10.1/15; 7. The Mentalist, CBS, 10.1/15; 9. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 10.0/15; 10. 60 Minutes, CBS, 9.1/14.