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Good news for politics fans! PBS to air gavel-to-gavel conventions

June 12, 2008 | 11:37 am

Great news for political junkies! PBS is gonna broadcast gavel-to-gavel television coverage of both parties' national conventions this summer.

Years ago the commercial broadcast networks stopped their blanket coverage. The inner, internecine workings of democracy Jim Lehrer will anchor gavel-to-gavel coverage of both national political conventions this summer on PBSare not boffo broadcast. Scenes of people in funny hats and long-winded politicians just can't compete against episodes of "Lost" and correspondent and technician overtime at such affairs can cut into profits.

But PBS says it will carry live coverage of all the proceedings:

This summer's national political conventions take place (Democratic National Convention in Denver, CO; August 25 to 28; Republican National Convention in St. Paul, MN; September 1 to 4), The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer will produce 24+ hours of live.

Prime time coverage to be broadcast in high-definition nationwide on PBS. These eight nights of convention coverage will be the only complete broadcast coverage made available by a U.S. broadcast television network.

The PBS coverage will be anchored by Jim Lehrer, anchor and executive editor of "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," from sky boxes overlooking the podiums in both convention halls. Lehrer will be joined by, among others, NewsHour senior correspondents Gwen Ifill, Ray Suarez, Judy Woodruff and Margaret Warner.

Political analysis will be provided by New York Times columnist David Brooks; syndicated columnist Mark Shields. Presidential historians Michael Beschloss and Richard Norton Smith will add historical perspective and Andy Kohut, President of the Pew Research Center, will update viewers with the latest polling information.

In a recent story, noted even though the commercial networks don't plan on doing much coverage, what they do will look good since, like PBS, they'll all be broadcasting in high definition.

And like PBS, the other networks will be using the Internet to carry coverage not provided over the air.

Even though the commercial networks have cut way back, you get the sense they still want some props for what they're doing, based on a quote from ABC News Vice President Bob Murphy in the story:

"If we covered conventions for ratings, we would have gotten out of the business a long time ago," Murphy said.

Good thing there are round-the-clock blogs like this one.

--Frank James

Frank James writes for the Swamp of the Chicago Tribune's Washington bureau.               Photo Credit: PBS