US news chiefs warn of evening TV news demise

US news chiefs have warned that evening news could disappear from the network schedules.

Paul Slavin, senior vice president of ABC News Gathering told a House of Lords Select Committee on Communications that while the network’s evening news audience is growing, its audience in the 25-54 demographic is declining.

He stated that if this group continues to turn away from the evening news, then it is not inconceivable that evening news will disappear across the networks.

Slavin also said that multi-skilling may be detrimental to journalism – but it is too early to tell. He said it was no longer efficient to run ‘large brick and mortar foreign bureaux’but that new technology made it possible to have fewer staff doing more in new, smaller bureaux.

Mark Whitaker, senior vice president of NBC News, said that the war in Iraq was having a detrimental affect on the spread of foreign coverage. Iraq takes $9 million a year, a tenth of NBC’s entire news budget. Whitaker stated that the international leader in foreign coverage is the BBC, which he called ‘the leader and the best”.

CNN used their meeting with the House of Lords Committe to deny that Fox News threatened them. Darius Walker, New York bureau chief, CNN, rejected Fox’s claim to be the number one cable news broadcaster.

He argued that while Fox might have more unique viewers for their prime time shows, CNN’s cumulative viewing figures were better and they attracted the audience that matters economically – the young, affluent and better educated viewers, making them attractive to advertisers. But he conceded that Fox does make more revenue than CNN from subscriptions.

A US professor told the select committee that the British model of public service broadcasting would be ‘a laughable proposition’in the US.

Nicholas Lemann, the Dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism, told the House of Lords select committee that the US would never accept public intervention in journalism as experienced by the BBC. He said: ‘It works in the UK but would be a laughable proposition in the US.”

The Committee visited the Uunited States in September as part of its inquiry into media ownership.

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