As PBS Did With Nixon, Bill Moyers Calls for Primetime Airing of Trump Impeachment Hearings

UPDATE: After it was reported Friday afternoon that PBS, in addition to its live coverage, will air upcoming Trump impeachment hearings across its digital platforms as well as re-airing them at prime time on its digital channel WORLD, carried by 157 public television stations (covering 64.4% of US TV households) nationwide, Bill Moyers issued the following statement to indicate that the broadcasters refusal to run the hearings in its flagship all-access public channels does not meet his and Winship’s demand for a full and complete “Watergate-like primetime replay.”

Moyers responded: “Our friends at PBS are saying they will not carry the hearings in prime time — period. Instead, they will throw them in the river and viewers can dive for it, because that’s what WORLD is, a place where important programs are sent to die. Raise your hand if you have ever found a show on World? 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.”

With the House set to hold its first public impeachment hearings next week as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, renowned public broadcast journalist Bill Moyers took out a full-page ad in the Friday print edition of the New York Times calling on PBS to carry the hearings live on television and re-air them in primetime every night, just as it did during the Nixon impeachment proceedings.

“Now, during yet another great Constitutional crisis, it’s time for PBS to stand up again—to air the Trump impeachment hearings live during the day and repeat them in the evening primetime hours,” reads the ad (pdf), which Moyers co-authored with longtime collaborator and Common Dreams senior writing fellow Michael Winship.

“Plenty of Americans still rely on good old broadcast TV to get the word,” the ad—which appears on page 5—continues. “Hearken, PBS: Pull out the stops once again, and for the sake of the nation, throw away the schedule and air the Trump impeachment hearings in prime-time. Who wins? Democracy—and viewers like you.”

Read the full ad (pdf):


In an op-ed for Common Dreams Friday, Moyers and Winship called readers to reach out to PBS directly or their local public stations and urge them to air the hearings.

(Disclosure: Moyers sits on the board of the Schumann Media Center and Winship’s fellowship receives funding from the foundation.)

Moyers and Winship both began working in public broadcasting “when Watergate was at the top of the news,” the veteran journalists noted in Common Dreams. Moyers began his long career at PBS with the Bill Moyers Journal, which aired between 1972 and 1976. Of the 37 Emmy’s he received over the course of his career, Moyers’ very first was for an essay on Watergate.

PBS’ historic gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Nixon hearings “almost didn’t happen,” Moyers and Winship wrote, due to the former president’s efforts to destroy public television, which he viewed as one of his many enemies.

“The least its gatekeepers can do now is re-broadcast these upcoming impeachment hearings in primetime. Yes, it means disrupting the schedule for as long as it takes.”
—Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

“The now defunct-National Public Affairs Center for Television (NPACT), which produced the coverage for PBS, already was under fire from the Nixon administration,” the journalists noted, “part of the president’s efforts to quell ‘Eastern liberal’ dissent he thought was biased against him and even eliminate public television altogether. (Nixon special assistant Patrick Buchanan had said, ‘We’ve got to zero it out, and that’s that.’).”

Attacks on public broadcasting have continued under the Trump administration. For three consecutive years, the president’s budget has proposed the complete elimination of federal funding for PBS and NPR.

Moyers and Winship urged PBS to once again stand up to the “right-wing vigilantes” and “partisan budget-cutters in Congress and the White House” by broadcasting the Trump impeachment proceedings to the millions of people in the U.S. who rely on public television to stay informed.

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“Once upon a time PBS offered prime-time specials, debates, even teach-ins to help us sort out complex public issues or get to the heart of a clear and present danger to our fragile democracy,” Moyers and Winship wrote. “The least its gatekeepers can do now is re-broadcast these upcoming impeachment hearings in primetime.”

“Yes, it means disrupting the schedule for as long as it takes,” the journalists added. “And yes, we know they can be streamed online—but not every American has that luxury; many still rely for their information on the good, old-fashioned TV set.”

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