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One Cheer For ABC

ABC stepped up again last night. It was the only network to provide more than cut-in coverage of the New Hampshire primary, and as far as I can tell, it again provided by far the most broadcast network coverage of Barack Obama’s claim to victory (sorry Hillary Clinton) in the Democratic primary.

As one wag pointed out online, the word "historic" was working overtime on the pundit trail, but with reason.

Jesse Jackson phoned in from somewhere in Africa to celebrate the moment when an African American became amajor party’s presumptive presidential nominee for the first time.

But I digress. According to ABC, it was the the only network to carry parts of all three candidate speecheslast night. And while its half-hour coverage pailed next to the wall-to-wall coverage of cable nets like Fox, CNN and MSNBC, where the pie charts and interactive maps and talking heads abounded, ABC did give Obama’s moment 24 minutes worth of  special report, anchored by Charlie Gibson.

By contrast, NBC gave the final two primaries and Obama’s topping of the delegate threshhold 3 minutes worth of cut-ins at 9 p.m. (Brian Williams and Tim Russert), when NBC declared Obama the presumptive nominee, and 90 seconds of recap at 10.

CBS updated its Evening News feeds three times as the Obama delegate count decreased, but those were simply different versions of the same newscast. It did cut into network programming at 9:02 for about a minute, with Katie Couric and Jeff Greenfield announcing Obama as the presumptive nominee. CBS also provided a prime time update on the West Coast at 8:15 Pacific Time, again about a minute, with brief video of Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s speeches.

Fox News Channel’s coverage–as far as I could tell the broadcast network had no cut-ins–was extensive and included the call at 6 p.m. by Britt Hume that Obama appeared to have enough Super delegates so that his presumptive nomination was assured. CNN, too, was on the story like blanket, updating delegate counts at every turn.

All that said, the combined minutes given over by the four braodcast networks in prime time to the historic moment, that’s right, "historic," totaled a fraction over or under 30 minutes (depending on whether or not you count both CBS’ East and West Coast cut-ins), or far less than one of the networks, NBC, gave over to back-to-back repeats of Outrageous Moments, a home video clip show rip off of other home video clip shows–you know, skateboarding kids endangering their future children via close encounters with railings and the like.

I think had I been NBC, I would have scrapped the repeats of that marginal show and thrown it to MSNBC’s coverage for an hour. That would have cross-promoted the news brand and would have allowed me to add another cheer to the headline. But hey, maybe it’s just me.

Then there was CBS’s break in at 9:02, which only briefly interrupted the story of a two-year old murder mystery on 48 Hours Mystery, a tabloidy reality incarnation of what was once a news show.

So. One cheer for ABC and raspberries for the rest.