Coverage of Watergate hearings made star of Ervin

PBS, whose coverage of the Watergate hearings riveted the nation and made beetle-browed inquisitor Sen. Sam Ervin into a folk hero, has announced its coverage plans for the Donald Trump public impeachment hearings starting next week and it is going to provide televised coverage this time as well, with the addition of digital coverage on all its platforms. 

Presiding over the hearings next week will be House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff. 

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“How high did the scandals reach and was President Nixon himself involved?” That was how then NewsHour co-anchor Robert MacNeil opened the Nixon hearings in May 17, 1973. 

PBS will broadcast the Trump hearings live starting Nov. 13, with analysis from its new NewsHour team. As always stations make their own programming decisions, but the coverage will be available to affiliates.

The hearings will then 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 will also air in primetime on WORLD, the digital channel carried by 157 public television stations (covering 64.4% of US TV households). A 

PBS NewsHour and Amanpour & Company will also have "extensive coverage" of the hearings.

"We live in a vastly different media universe than we did 45+ years ago," said a PBS spokesperson. "In today’s on demand world, we will ensure that Americans have access to the replay of the hearings when and how they want to view them."

In a blog post and ad in the New York Times Friday (Nov. 8), Michael Winship, former Schumann senior writing fellow for progressive group Common Dreams and former senior writer for Moyers & Company, had teamed with iconic PBS newsman Bill Moyers to call for PBS to air the impeachment hearings as it had the Watergate hearings, both in daytime and then repeated in prime ime. PBS plans to stream the repeat coverage this time. 

Reacting to the B&C story, Moyers was not assuaged and made that clear in an update to that post: 

"Our friends at PBS are saying they will not carry the hearings in primetime — period," he wrote. "Instead, they will throw them in the river and viewers can dive for it, because that’s what WORLD is, a place where important programs are sent to die. Raise your hand if you have ever found a show on World? How in the world — no pun intended — does it serve democracy to hide the hearings from people who come home from work to see them but don’t have cable, satellite, and internet access? If PBS were truly an alternative to corporate networks, it would repeat the hearings in prime time for the mass audience. Period.” 

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