PBS Pressed for Prime Time Impeachment Hearing Repeat

Common Cause said it has delivered almost 100,000 petitions to PBS calling for it to re-air the House Intelligence Committee impeachment hearings in prime time on its "flagship all-access public channels," as it did for the Watergate hearings over four decades ago. 

That is a reference to the fact that PBS's coverage is re-airing on the WORLD noncom programming service on noncom digital subchannels on 157 PBS stations reaching 64% of U.S. TV households, according to producing station WGBH Boston, although WETA TV Washington did decide to re-air the hearings in prime time (it does not program a WORLD subchannel). 

“Every American should have the chance to see the full case against Donald Trump firsthand in prime time in order to make up their own mind about whether their elected Representatives in Congress should impeach the President,” said Michael Copps, former FCC chairman and Common Cause special adviser. “History is unfolding on Capitol Hill while most Americans are at work or school and as the nation’s public broadcaster, PBS should be airing the proceedings during prime time as service to the nation. PBS should ensure that everyone has the opportunity to view the entire process rather than have it delivered to them in soundbites and with partisan spin. The impeachment hearings are too important to the future of our democracy for the nation’s public broadcasters not to air them in prime time.”  

Former iconic PBS newsman Bill Moyers and a longtime colleague, Michael Winship, have been calling for PBS and its member stations to air the repeats of the PBS NewsHour coverage on their primary channels so a wider working audience could see the hearings. 

"[I]f after working all day you want to sit down in front of your TV set to watch all the testimony for or against President Trump during the prime time hours, you’ll have to go to a digital subchannel called WORLD," they wrote two weeks ago, "which is difficult to find if not impossible to receive in many communities where there is inadequate access to cable, satellite or the internet. We wager most of you have never even heard of it. Or watched the many public affairs programs sent there to die."  

PBS has pointed out that after the initial airing and in addition to the WORLD re-airings, the PBS NewsHour coverage of the hearings will be available on demand on all PBS digital platforms including pbs.org and the PBS video app, which is available on Apple TV, Roku and smart TVs. 

The hearings continued Tuesday (Nov. 19) with testimony from Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who was detailed to the White House to, in part, coordinate Ukraine policy, and Jennifer Williams, currently detailed to the Office of the Vice President, responsible for issues related to Europe and Eurasia.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.