Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011

Bill Clinton and O.J. Simpson

It isn't often that the President has to compete for the nation's attention. But in 1997, as President Bill Clinton was set to give the State of the Union address, a California jury was also preparing to deliver the verdict in O.J. Simpson's civil trial. The simultaneous events put television networks in a tough spot: air the President's most important address of the year or air the decision, which was sure to be a ratings hit? Luckily for the networks, the verdict arrived just as Clinton was concluding his speech. CBS, ABC and CNN chose to stay on the President's address, as did NBC, though it switched cable channel MSNBC to coverage of the verdict. Some local affiliates, however, chose to divvy up the airtime. KPIX, a CBS affiliate in San Francisco, chose to cover both events by split-screening part of its coverage.