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CBS Not Likely To Pre-Empt 'CSI' For Bush

By Christian
April 28, 2005 - 8:43 PM

See Also: 'Committed' Episode Guide

East Coast CSI fans needn't worry: CBS will probably still broadcast the new episode "Committed" tonight, rather than switch over to a prime-time press conference by US President George W. Bush.

According to an AP report, press secretary Scott McClellan announced yesterday that Bush will be speaking to reporters at 8:30pm Eastern Time in the East Room of the White House. Following a 10- to 12-minute opening statement focusing on Social Security, Bush will engage in a question-and-answer session with the press. The White House has formally asked the major television networks to broadcast the event.

Unfortunately for the President, tonight is also the first night of May Sweeps - the all-important period during which Nielsens Media Research engages in extra detailed research of viewership numbers, with the resulting data being used to calculate advertising rates for the rest of the year. During sweeps months, networks attempt to lure viewers by airing the most high-profile programming possible, such as in the case of CBS new episodes of Survivor and CSI. As the ratings race has been unusually tight this season, it seems unlikely the networks will want to turn over one of their most important nights to the White House, especially since that would also mean giving up the ad income from the commercial that would normally have aired during his press conference.

As of this afternoon, CBS seemed to be sticking to its usual programming for tonight. The official CBS site still listed both Survivor and CSI, and the web site of the CBS affiliate in Charleston, West Virginia carried a message saying "CBS is not expected to carry President Bush's prime-time news conference tonight," while directing viewers to CBSNews.com for a webcast of the press conference. In addition, Media Life Magazine noted that CBS, NBC and Fox weren't expected to pre-empt, but that ABC would probably carry the press conference live, as it didn't have a very strong line-up for tonight anyway.

Despite these early signs, CBS could still decide to switch over after all. CBS affiliate WFOR in Miami has been telling fans it doesn't expect the network to cover the Bush event, but is still awaiting definite word from higher-ups. In addition, even if the network decides against pre-empting, local affiliates could still separately choose to yank CSI for the press conference. Whatever happens, the press conference could only impact those on the East Coast, as it will be long over by the time CSI is scheduled to air on the West Coast.

If CBS were to decide to pre-empt CSI, this would be the second time this season CSI fans would have to miss the show because of a last-minute schedule change. In November, East Coast viewers missed the final minutes of CSI: New York's "Outside Man," after CBS News broke into the program to announce the death of Yasser Arafat (story). The resulting outrage was so great that it led to CBS firing the producer responsible (story).

Media Life's report on the dilemma the major broadcast networks face can be found here. Thanks go out to Chris Fullman and 'Dynamo1' at Talk CSI for some of this!

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