The political season

News services provide affiliates with up-to-the-minute convention coverage

When it comes to reporting on this summer's political conventions, broadcast network affiliate news services and others in the business are making sure that local TV stations have a steady stream of live news stories. The convention coverage has been mostly nonstop, with the Republicans holding their convention earlier this month and the Democrats meeting this week in Los Angeles.

Stations have been able to count on ABC NewsOne, CBS Newspath, NBC News Channel, FOX NewsEdge, CNN Newsource and Conus to deliver custom and generic coverage on a daily basis. International news services Associated Press Television News (APTN) and Reuters Television (RTV) have also been doing their part in providing broadcasters around the globe with convention news.

CNN Newsource, the leading independent news service, is offering 22 hours of daily coverage for newscasts in all time zones. Live shots using Newsource and CNN correspondents will be available, as well as daily morning briefings of convention activity by a CNN political correspondent. And for broadcasters attending the conventions, Newsource provides workspace and eight remote setups equipped with staffs, cameras, photographers and Web infrastructures.

Newsource also produced a special feed for stations on the history of the Republican Convention and is doing the same for the Democratic National Convention. "We're giving stations the complete package,'' says Jack Womack, executive vice president of CNN Newsource. "We'll have over 30 different entities working there with us, including domestic and international affiliates. This is more than we've ever had. For those who say there's not a lot of interest in it, there's a heck of a lot of interest.''

Womack says Newsource affiliates can also expect extensive coverage of election night and the inauguration. "We'll be spread out across the U.S. joining the Gore and Bush campaigns wherever they are. CNN is the network of record on political coverage, and we tag along on the big things as much as we can.''

Conus is using its new state-of-the-art mobile satellite truck to ensure its members receive total digital coverage of the conventions. Conus is a small independent news service, which, unlike the others, operates without the backing of a major news operation.

During the Republican convention, the Conus truck transmitted four digital paths: two live feeds, one tape feed and the pool feed from the convention. "Conus was able to accommodate every clients' request for feeds and live-shot windows, because our digital service makes everything easier, faster and more flexible,'' says Tom Becherer, vice president of Conus News Services.

For ABC NewsOne, the conventions are also a major undertaking. Like its competitors, NewsOne delivered live shots for stations from 5 a.m. until 2 a.m. The service also provided workspace, satellite time and facilities for the 20 ABC affiliates attending the conventions and 10 international clients, including NHK and BBC. "Those ABC affiliates are sending about 100 people, and the international clients are sending about 300. It's the biggest operation we've ever had at the conventions,'' says Don Dunphy, vice president, ABC affiliate news services.

The demand for live convention coverage was underscored at the CBS Newspath trailer in Philadelphia. "The first convention I did, we thought we were hot because we had six paths and six or seven live-shot positions,'' says Bill Mondora, news director of CBS Newspath. For the RNC, Newspath used 18 live-shot positions and 16 paths, he explains.

"We're trying to make good local TV out of what I still believe is a good national story, despite what you read that nobody cares anymore,'' says Mondora. Three Newspath correspondents have been handling generic and custom live shots for all dayparts and time zones. During the conventions, Newspath has been working with the CBS-owned stations, Belo, Meredith Broadcasting Group, the EBU (32 EBU affiliates), eight individual CBS affiliates, MTV News and the Telemundo Network.

FOX NewsEdge has also been delivering custom live shots to its affiliates. It sent digital receivers to the 22 FOX affiliates slated to attend the political meetings, giving them digital capability, says Dave Winstrom, director of NewsEdge. At the same time, an analog path will be used to feed generic and live shots for the FOX stations not at the conventions.

NBC News Channel is running two paths to meet the demand of its affiliates. Reporting for local stations has spanned all time zones for custom and generic live shots. All the NBC-owned stations, nine NBC affiliates, CNBC and NTV of Japan are among those that News Channel has been working with at the conventions.

"We detect that political coverage seems to be moving away from the conventions a little bit,'' says Bob Horner, president of NBC News Channel. Instead, he thinks local stations are reallocating their political resources to do a better job on the actual campaign trail and on election night.

There is also an appetite for convention news from international broadcasters, says Nigel Baker, head of news for APTN. "We'll be providing a full service out of the conventions. For U.S. broadcasters and online customers, we'll be covering key events ourselves to provide copyright-clear video.''

Reuters Television (RTV) says there is more interest in the Republican convention because George W. Bush is not as well known to foreign broadcasters as Al Gore is. "We've had to produce in-depth feature stories about him [Bush], particularly his foreign-policy stands on missile defense, and the U.S. military role in the world and how that might differ from the Democrats,'' says John Clarke, RTV's news editor for the Americas.