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Fox likely to pass on Obama address again [Updated]

September 4, 2009 |  8:47 am

Obama President Obama’s plan to make his case for healthcare reform in an address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday is forcing the broadcast television networks to upend their prime-time schedules yet again, much to their consternation.

Obama’s speech has been billed as the White House’s last and best chance to regain the upper hand on the roiling healthcare debate. But not all the networks are willing to cooperate. It appears unlikely that Fox, which is debuting the season premiere of “So You Think You Can Dance,” followed by its much-anticipated new comedy “Glee,” will carry the speech. Instead, the network’s sister channel Fox News will air the address. (A Fox spokeswoman said no decision has officially been made yet.)

It won’t be the first time that Fox ignored a presidential appearance. In July, the network opted to air “So You Think You Can Dance” instead of Obama’s prime-time news conference, a decision that helped it win the night in viewership.

So far, NBC is the only network that has committed to carrying Wednesday’s speech, which will air at 8 p.m. EDT, forcing that network to push back a new episode of “America’s Got Talent.” ABC, which was scheduled to air “Wipeout” in that hour, will also likely carry Obama’s address. CBS planned to run repeats of “New Adventures of Old Christine” and “Gary Unmarried” and has not yet announced whether it will change its plans.

Complicating the scheduling is the fact that the Republicans are demanding equal air time to respond to the president, which would likely force the networks to scuttle their 9 p.m. programming too.

Obama’s frequent addresses to the public in prime time since taking office are wearing on the broadcast networks, which have lost millions in advertising revenue from canceled entertainment programming -- no small matter during an economic downturn. But for the most part, the pressure to deliver live news on matters of major public significance has outweighed the networks' financial considerations.

On the other hand, the president's prime-time appearances have been welcome fodder for the cable news networks, which thrive on live news events.

[Updated at 9:16 a.m.: CBS will carry Obama's address, a CBS News spokesman said.]

[Updated at 10:13 a.m.: ABC News confirmed that it will air the president's speech and the Republican response from 8 to 9 p.m. ET, indicating that the networks remain hopeful that the event will only disrupt an hour of prime time.]

[Updated at 3:30 p.m.: Fox confirmed that the network will not carry Obama's speech. An on-screen graphic will alert viewers that the address is available on the Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network.]

-- Matea Gold 

Photo: Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg

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