PBS NC did not air the first hearing on January 6, will air the next ones
North Carolinians who wanted to watch Thursday’s first public hearing of the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol were unable to do so on PBS North Carolina, as the broadcaster chose not to broadcast the hearing on its television channels.
But after backlash and complaints from viewers, including comments on social media, the public broadcaster – formerly known as UNC-TV – decided to broadcast the remaining hearings, starting with the second hearing of the committee, scheduled for Monday at 10 a.m.
PBS NC will broadcast this hearing and others scheduled for this week live on its North Carolina channel.
David Crabtree, the longtime WRAL anchor who became interim CEO of PBS NC last month, told The News & Observer in a phone call Sunday that he had made the decision not to air the Thursday’s hearing live because viewers could access it from other networks on TV, or through an online livestream offered by PBS NC on its website.
All major television news networks aired Thursday’s historic ratings on their major news channels, except Fox News, which aired the audience on its Fox Business network and digital sites. reported NPR. More than 20 million people watched the committee’s first hearing, according to CNN.
Viewers who tuned in to PBS NC’s main broadcast channel Thursday night during the hearings broadcast “received a 30-second on-screen message every 10 minutes advising them of where to find coverage of the audience,” Kathleen Kramer, head of programming marketing for PBS NC, told The N&O in an email.
Crabtree said PBS NC uses Thursdays to air locally produced shows, which he said have become a “staple” for viewers and the network. Thursday’s broadcast schedule included “On the Road with Chatham Rabbits,” “My Home, NC,” “North Carolina Weekend” and “David Holt’s State of Music.”
“We knew the access [to the hearing] was there on many levels, and we knew we had locally produced shows that people were expecting, and so we made the decision,” Crabtree said. “I don’t think it’s a disservice, especially — and it’s very important here — that access was so readily available to anyone in the state of North Carolina who wanted that information that night. “
Backlash on the decision at the first hearing
The decision by PBS NC sparked questions from some viewers about possible political influences on the broadcaster, which is licensed by the Federal Communications Commission to the UNC System Board of Governors – a body that was recently described by a group of national professors as operating under “omnipresence and openly partisan political control.
State Rep. Marcia Morey, a Democrat who represents Durham County in the North Carolina General Assembly, told The N&O that she heard those concerns, as well as concerns about equal opportunity. access to audiences, from friends and constituents on Friday.
“I was very surprised and disappointed that the North Carolina public broadcaster didn’t air it,” Morey said.
But Crabtree told The N&O he made the decision not to air Thursday’s hearing without influence from anyone, including political actors.
“I want to be very clear: This decision is mine, and there was no input from anyone else,” Crabtree said.
Crabtree said he discussed the matter with Justine Schmidt, chief content officer for PBS NC, over a period of two to three days before making the final decision.
“We talked about it with intent,” Crabtree said. “We discussed what would be the right decision to make, and we knew whatever decision was made, not everyone would be happy with the decision.”
After hearing feedback from viewers, Crabtree said he made the decision on Friday to broadcast future hearings live while continuing to broadcast them live on the PBS NC website.
Plans for the second January 6 hearing and beyond
Beginning Monday, the hearings will air on PBS NC’s North Carolina Channel – a separate channel from the network’s main broadcast channel that “focuses on civic affairs, issues, entertainment and relevant educational programming. for North Carolina”.
The North Carolina channel is available live in the Triangle on channel 4.4 or 25.4 and on Spectrum Cable channel 1276.
Crabtree said he made the decision not to air the second committee hearing on the main broadcast channel because it coincides with the network’s block of children’s programming, which “was more important to this specific audience at this time of day.”
“Again, with access so saturating the rest of the state, that people would not be denied information, but the children – and our primary focus is education – that children’s programming will have take precedence over Monday’s ratings, as far as airing on our main channel is concerned,” Crabtree said.
Crabtree said he’s not sure if future hearings beyond this week will air on the North Carolina channel or any of PBS NC’s three other channels, but he said the network is committed to ensuring viewers have access to audiences in some form, including live.
“We will provide access to all hearings that are held,” Crabtree said. “Exactly how and where and what it’s going to look like in each of those hearings, I can’t answer that today. But I can tell you that our viewers will have access to the information.
This story was originally published June 12, 2022 5:04 p.m.