Prepare for inundation, at least during the daytime. ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS will be covering the House’s first open impeachment hearings live. Likewise many of the cable channels, including CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and C-SPAN.
The first hearing is expected to begin at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, with diplomat William Taylor and then State Department official George Kent. The second hearing, scheduled for Friday at 11 a.m., is expected to include testimony from former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
But are televised daytime hearings “open door” enough? Will only working journalists, politicians, and frustrated soap-opera audiences be able to take in the raw testimony itself, before it has been shaped and altered by the analysts?
Last week, Bill Moyers and Michael Winship took out an ad in The New York Times urging PBS to air the Trump impeachment hearings in prime time. During Watergate, the two argued, public broadcasting stood above other networks, which only aired the hearings live, by rebroadcasting them at night — “when people who had spent all day working could come home, watch the drama play out without intrusive commentary, and become a part of the process of judgment.” Disrupting regular prime-time programming for a few weeks, they wrote, “is a small price to pay for helping preserve the republic.”
When PBS responded to the ad by saying it planned to re-air the hearings in prime time on its digital channel, called World, Moyers was not pleased. In a statement, he called World “a place where important programs are sent to die.” “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.”Matthew Gilbert can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.