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What each of the TV networks are planning for election night

The long-running television drama known as Campaign 2016 reaches its conclusion tonight, and tens of millions of Americans will be following the results on their television screens.

The record election night audience of 71.5 million viewers came on the night of Barack Obama’s first victory in 2008 (it was 66.8 million in 2012).

Given the consistent level of interest throughout the 2016 campaign, it’s not hard to imagine that record being broken.

Besides following on TV, many of those viewers will have second or third screens at hand to dive deeper into results.

Here’s a thumbnail sketch of network plans:

NBC

NBC is the defending election night ratings champion and that’s a major point of pride for a television news division.

With Brian Williams now exiled to MSNBC, the main network is taking the team approach with Lester Holt, Savannah Guthrie and Chuck Todd as headliners for its coverage.

Tom Brokaw is a comforting presence as an analyst: He’s been involved in every NBC election night since 1968.

As in the past, NBC is dressing up New York’s Rockefeller Plaza, with the front of its headquarters lighting up in red and blue to mark the electoral progress of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and a map of the United States superimposed on the famed skating rink.

Todd will be NBC’s guru of exit polls and the electoral map.

Andrea Mitchell will report live from the Clinton campaign headquarters, with Katy Tur doing the same at Trump’s.

Each of the three top broadcasters will air elections coverage from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. ET.

ABC

The current and two former anchors of ABC’s flagship “World News Tonight” broadcast will be on the set election night, but George Stephanopoulos will lead the coverage.

Stephanopoulos is ABC’s top man in politics, and it will be his first election night as the chief anchor.

Election night is all hands on deck, however, and Charles Gibson is coming out of retirement to be on the set. Diane Sawyer, who anchored ABC’s coverage four years ago, will also participate, along with current “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir.

ABC’s coverage will originate from Times Square, and Michael Strahan of “Good Morning America” will be outside to get public reaction.

ABC is stationing Robin Roberts at Hillary Clinton’s headquarters and Amy Robach at Donald Trump’s.

ABC News also has the closely watched prognosticator, Nate Silver of the FiveThirtyEight website, giving state-by-state analysis.

ABC will also air a special edition of “Nightline” from 2 to 4 a.m. ET.

CBS

CBS is stressing the ensemble approach for its coverage and showcasing its entire morning show team.

Rather than declare Scott Pelley as its chief anchor, CBS News is giving equal billing to seven different personalities: Besides Pelley, they are the morning show team of Charlie Rose, Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell, the network political director John Dickerson, correspondent Elaine Quijano and semi-retired anchor Bob Schieffer.

Rose will showcase his interviewing and also lead a panel of experts for analysis.

Anthony Mason is CBS’ man at the maps.

Major Garrett will cover Trump headquarters and Nancy Cordes will be with Clinton.

The CBSN streaming service, which celebrates its second birthday this weekend, will also stream a continuous news report Election Day and night.

CNN

Election night coverage on CNN begins before any of the polls close, at 4 p.m. ET, with Wolf Blitzer, Jake Tapper, Anderson Cooper and Dana Bash tag-teaming it.

Actually, Election Day coverage begins 16 hours earlier, with CNN appealing to insomniacs with a live overnight political show hosted by Poppy Harlow.

The network is stationing 25 correspondents to report from polling sites at swing states across the country.

John King is back in front of CNN’s Magic Wall of data, David Chalian will cover exit polls and Mark Preston is stationed at the network’s decision desk. Gloria Borger, David Axelrod, Nia-Malika Henderson and Michael Smerconish are at the analysts’ desk.

For overseas viewers, CNN International will simulcast the main network’s elections coverage all over the world.

MSNBC

No longer on the main network, Williams will anchor MSNBC’s coverage as part of a team with Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews.

MSNBC’s coverage starts at 6 p.m., an hour earlier than NBC, and will draw on the same bench of experts used by the main network.

PBS

Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill will anchor PBS’ election night coverage, which begins at 8 p.m. ET on the public broadcasting network.

John Yang will be at Clinton headquarters in New York and Jeffrey Brown will be following Trump.

PBS’ list of analysts include David Brooks of The New York Times, Amy Walter from the Cook Political Report, veteran broadcaster Jeff Greenfield, Mitt Romney’s former campaign chief Stuart Stevens and former Obama pollster Cornell Belcher.

C-SPAN

If you tire of television analysts, C-SPAN offers an alternative.

The network will dart around the country to hear victory and concession speeches by candidates running for various races.

The network will also take viewer calls and sample comments from social media throughout the night, beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

ABC family gets top marks for LGBT inclusiveness

The television network that gets the most praise from an advocacy group that monitors content featuring gays, lesbians and transgender people has “family” in its name and targets an audience of teenage girls and young women.

GLAAD said in a report issued last week that 74 percent of the programming hours on ABC Family included at least one LGBT character – the highest percentage any network has recorded since the group began issuing content reports in 2007. GLAAD studied the networks for a one-year period that ended May 31.

“We feel it is our responsibility to our viewers to reflect the world that they live in and it’s a diverse world,” said Karey Burke, executive vice president of programming at the Disney-owned network.

ABC Family’s numbers were boosted by the drama “Pretty Little Liars,” where one of the lead characters Emily Fields is a lesbian. “The Fosters” follows the story of a lesbian couple. “Chasing Life” featured a bisexual woman and a gay man, although the latter character died of cancer. “Young & Hungry” and “Mystery Girls” both featured gay men, and there were a number of gays and lesbians in the supporting cast of “Switched at Birth.”

Network viewers are also anticipating the January debut of “Shadow Hunters,” a show based on the book series “The Mortal Instrument” that prominently features a gay couple.

Three-quarters of ABC Family’s typical audience is female, with a median age of 29, according to the Nielsen company.

The network is likely to be more inclusive partly because it seeks a younger audience, an age group that is more accepting of gays and lesbians, said Matt Kane, GLAAD programming director.

Seamlessly including these characters in the stories sends a strong message of acceptance that is likely to help young people dealing with their own identity issues, he said.

“I hope that it is something that other networks are taking notice of,” Kane said.

GLAAD has consulted with ABC Family on its programming, although Kane wouldn’t divulge the group’s specific role. The network and its actors have helped GLAAD with some of its activities, including an annual “Spirit Day” that encourages people to wear purple for a day.

Burke said the status as GLAAD’s top-rated network “makes us deeply proud.

“We were hugging each other in the halls here,” she said. “It’s an honor to be recognized.”

GLAAD’s grade did not reflect “Becoming Us,” a nonfiction series about two transgender people in an Illinois community that aired on ABC Family this summer.

That series, which averaged 452,000 viewers per episode, was a ratings disappointment for ABC Family and it has not been decided whether it will come back for another season. Executives aren’t sure why it didn’t do well, whether the subject matter made viewers feel uncomfortable or whether the attention paid to Caitlyn Jenner’s E! docuseries “I Am Cait” drowned “Becoming Us” out.

“We hope it’s not a reflection of the subject matter,” Burke said.

Despite the inclusive hours, GLAAD said one story line on “Pretty Little Liars” was a disappointment. The series had a mentally ill transgender woman who, in the season finale, attempted to murder both her family and the main cast of the show. GLAAD said it was “the latest in a long series of transgender women portrayed as psychotic killers in mainstream media.”

Part of acceptance for LGBT characters in entertainment is having them portray villains as well as heroes, Burke said.

“We don’t feel the show has anything to apologize for,” she said.

What makes an Oscarcast click? Will it click this year?

What are TV viewers seeking from their annual Oscar fix? The same thing they want from movies: drama, comedy, sex, slapstick, glamour and romance.

Of course, no single movie can do all that. No wonder the perfect Oscarcast is an impossible dream. No wonder so many previous Oscarcasts failed to measure up.

A perfect broadcast would include:

• Roberto Benigni scrambling over auditorium seats to claim his trophy (1998).

• An onstage streaker (1974).

• Cher in a collection of outrageous get-ups.

• A rematch between 2008 rivals James Cameron and ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow.

• That deliciously awful 1988 musical number with Rob Lowe and “Snow White.”

• More of Jack Palance’s one-armed pushups from beyond the grave.

• Plus the stirring acceptance speech by Halle Berry in 2002.

Not gonna happen.

We’ll just have to make do when the 87th annual Academy Awards show airs Sunday, Feb. 22, at 8 p.m. EST on ABC. Besides counter-programming on other networks, here’s what the Oscarcast is up against this year:

SURE SHOT

Everyone loves a blockbuster or two landing best-picture nods. It gets people talking and tuning it. But this year, big hits like “Interstellar” and “The Lego Movie” were snubbed, with the nominees almost uniformly “small” pictures — with the exception, of course, of “American Sniper,” whose box-office firepower in recent weeks has caught everyone off guard and triggered hero-or-killer disputes about its protagonist.

Even so, the favorites appear to be “Birdman” and “Boyhood,” both terrific films that may not be such conversation starters. To handicap their Oscar chances with your friends, you first have to find someone else who has seen them.

WHITER SHADE OF PALE

Procol Harum should be named this year’s Oscar house band.  As you may have noticed, there’s not much diversity among the nominees. Will the contenders’ pallor cast a pall on viewership, or will the uproar over the Academy’s single-mindedness prod movie fans to tune in and witness what they see as Oscar’s sins of omission?

IS THE HOST TOAST?

Neil Patrick Harris is so talented and versatile other entertainers would probably endorse slapping a restraining order on him. Meanwhile, viewers clearly love him, and why wouldn’t they? On the other hand, he’s hosted the Tonys four times and the Emmys twice. Isn’t there someone else out there, maybe with new tricks up his or her sleeve, who could shake things up beyond Harris’ dependable excellence?

PRONOUNCIATION GUIDE

Nothing against the nominated directors, honest! But overall, these guys — no matter how admired and acclaimed —aren’t household names. Not yet, anyway. Here’s hoping that John Travolta (who already mangled Idina Menzel’s name on last year’s Oscarcast) isn’t the presenter.

GETTING IN THE ACT

Maybe a new way of watching the Oscars calls for a new kind of Oscarcast. Tom O’Neil, editor of the awards prediction website GoldDerby.com, thinks so.

“It used to be that viewership was tied to the popularity of the films in contention,” he says. “But there’s been a dramatic shift in the last few years since social media has started to matter.”

Now the Oscarcast, like lots of TV fare, is being fortified with a second screen enabling the viewer to participate, not just sit back and watch. This could signal a change in what draws viewers to the show and keeps them there.

“Everybody wants to watch,” says O’Neil, “then tweet to their friends what they’re thinking. That changes everything.”

Last year’s broadcast had a landmark moment when host Ellen DeGeneres arranged a all-star selfie. Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Spacey, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were among the A-listers crowding into the frame. DeGeneres then asked viewers (of which there were 43 million, the most for the Oscarcast in a decade) to help her set a retweet record. Legions quickly complied, sharing the photo throughout cyberspace and even briefly crashing Twitter.

Count on similar give-and-take Sunday night, says O’Neil, who offers his recipe for what a digital-age Oscarcast should be striving for.

“It doesn’t have to be oh-my-God-amazing,” he proposes. “It has to be an engaging, interactive experience.” And without the customary big-movie lures, “this is the year we may find out for sure if that’s true or not.”

Neil Patrick Harris to host Oscars

Neil Patrick Harris will host the 87th Oscar show live on ABC TV on Feb. 22, 2015.

Harris will follow in the footsteps of Ellen DeGeneres, who hosted the 2014 event on March 2, drawing the biggest Oscar viewership in 14 years, according to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science. An average audience of 45.4 million tuned in to watch DeGeneres, despite calls for boycotts from Republican evangelicals due to DeGeneres’ sexual orientation.

Harris, who has a supporting role in the current hit film Gone Girl, has previously appeared on the Academy Awards show, but February will mark his first time as host. Better known for his work on TV and Broadway, Harris has hosted both the Tony Awards and the Emmys. He’s won five Emmys, and earlier this year he took home a Tony for best lead in a musical for his role in ”Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” 

Harris is the first out gay man ever selected to host the industry’s most watched celebration of itself. With his strong background in musical theater, industry insiders expect his style to reflect that of Hugh Jackman, complete with a song-and-dance number mocking the year’s cinematic blockbusters and nominees.

Harris married his longtime other half David Burtka early this fall in Italy. The two are parents to twins Gideon and Harper.

Bird conservancy sues feds over eagle kill rule

American Bird Conservancy has filed suit in federal court against the U.S. Department of the Interior, alleging multiple violations of federal law in connection with the agency’s regulation that allows wind energy companies and others to obtain 30-year permits to kill eagles without risking prosecution.

In April, the environmental group notified DOI and its U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of its intent to sue, citing violations of the National Environmental Policy Act, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and other statutes in connection with the new eagle kill rule.

“Eagles are among our nation’s most iconic and cherished birds. They do not have to be sacrificed for the next 30 years for the sake of unconstrained wind energy,” said Michael Hutchins, national coordinator of ABC’s Bird Smart Wind Energy Program. “Giving wind companies a 30-year pass to kill bald and golden eagles without knowing how it might affect their populations is a reckless and irresponsible gamble that millions of Americans are unwilling to take.”

The previous rule, adopted in 2009, provided for a maximum duration of five years for each permit to kill eagles. According to a statement issued at that time by FWS in the Federal Register, a permit of any longer duration “would be incompatible with the preservation of the bald or golden eagle.”

But four years later, DOI has increased by six-fold the time during which eagles could be killed.

ABC believes wind energy and other renewable energy sources can be encouraged without putting eagles at risk.

Hutchins said, “In the government’s rush to expand wind energy, shortcuts were taken in implementing this rule that should not have been allowed. We understand that some bird mortality is inevitable. However, in this case, long-term, cumulative impacts to eagle populations were not properly assessed, and the 30-year take permit rule was adopted in the absence of the required NEPA analysis concerning impacts on eagle populations or any other species that share the eagles’ range.”

“The recovery of bald eagle populations is an FWS success story — an example of how a species’ population, with enough time and resources, can be brought around,” added Hutchins. “Americans take pride in the fact that bald eagles are once again a common sight in many places across the country. Their popularity and symbolic importance suggests that the American people are not going to tolerate the deaths of many to wind turbines.”

In 2009, 22,000 wind turbines were in operation in the United States, representing 25 gigawatts of installed capacity — a small fraction of the 300GW of production capacity needed to meet the 2030 federal goal of generating 20 percent of U.S. electricity from renewable energy.

By 2030, wind energy project growth is expected to impact almost 20,000 square miles of terrestrial habitat  — an area larger than the combined areas of New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island — and more than 4,000 square miles of marine habitat, some of this critical to threatened and other protected species.

ABC’s Diane Sawyer lands Hillary Clinton interview

ABC’s Diane Sawyer will get the first one-on-one television interview with Hillary Rodham Clinton surrounding the June release of the former secretary of state’s new book, “Hard Choices.”

The network said this week the Clinton interview will air during a primetime special airing on June 9. ABC said Robin Roberts will conduct the first live interview with Clinton the following day on “Good Morning America.”

Clinton’s book chronicling her time at the State Department will be released June 10 and comes as the former first lady and New York senator is considering another presidential campaign. The first interviews surrounding Clinton’s book release have been highly coveted by television networks because of the potential for a large viewing audience.

Early polls show Clinton as the leading Democratic contender for the White House and her future plans have been widely anticipated by supporters who have encouraged her to try to become the nation’s first female president.

Publisher Simon & Schuster has said the new book will offer an inside account of the “crises, choices and challenges” Clinton faced as secretary of state.

The former first lady has been active on the speaking circuit since departing the Obama administration and promoted policy issues through her family’s philanthropic foundation.

Defense secretary: regulations against transgender personnel need review

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said on May 11 that regulations effectively barring transgender people from serving openly in military service should be reviewed.

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” Hagel said, “I do think it continually should be reviewed. I’m open to that. I’m open to those assessments because — again, I go back to the bottom line — every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it.”

LGBT civil rights activists have long urged changes to the 30-year-old medical regulations that serve as a barrier to transgender people openly serving in the Armed Forces.

“It makes no sense to exclude qualified transgender servicemembers and we are pleased Secretary Hagel endorses a review,” said David Stacy, director of government affairs for the Human Rights Campaign.

Former President George H.W. Bush a witness at same-sex wedding in Maine

Former President George H.W. Bush was an official witness at the same-sex wedding of two longtime friends, according to an ABC News report.

Bush and his wife, Barbara Bush, attended the ceremony for Bonnie Clement and Helen Thorgalsen on Sept. 21, spokesman Jim McGrath told ABC News. The former president signed the marriage license as a witness.

The AP reported that Bush was seated in a wheelchair, with a stack of papers on his lap and his left hand poised with a pen in a photograph of the occasion. One bright red sock and one bright blue one peek out below the cuffs of his blue slacks.

The 41st president has deep ties to the area where Thorgalsen and Clement own a general store called HB Provisions.

“This has been a wonderful wedding experience for us and we were honored to have President and Mrs. Bush not only in attendance but also happy to sign our license,” Thorgalsen, who is with her wife on their honeymoon in London, told ABC News.

“As Nancy Sosa, our officiant, said, ‘God did not make a love that is wrong.’ If we can make a difference in the world with our wedding and marriage, we are thrilled,” she added, according to the ABC news report.

One of Bush’s sons, former President George W. Bush, opposed same-sex marriage and in 2004 announced his support for a proposed federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. His wife, Laura Bush, and their daughter Barbara Bush support gay marriage, as does his former vice president, Dick Cheney.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, considered a potential presidential candidate in 2016, has said same-sex marriage is an issue best left to the states to decide.

PHOTO: Former President George H.W. Bush at the wedding of Helen Thorgalsen and Bonnie Clement. Courtesy: Facebook/Helen Thorgalsen

Ellen DeGeneres to host the Oscars in 2014

Ellen DeGeneres will return to host the Oscars for a second time, producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron announced on Aug. 2.

The Academy Awards will be broadcast live on March 2, 2014, on ABC.

“We are thrilled to have Ellen DeGeneres host the Oscars,” said Zadan and Meron in a statement. “As a longtime friend, we had always hoped to find a project for us to do together, and nothing could be more exciting than teaming up to do the Oscars. There are few stars today who have Ellen’s gift for comedy, with her great warmth and humanity. She is beloved everywhere, and we expect that the audience at the Dolby Theater, and in homes around the globe, will be as excited by this news as we are.”

DeGeneres said, “I am so excited to be hosting the Oscars for the second time. You know what they say – the third time’s the charm.” 

“I agreed with Craig and Neil immediately that Ellen is the ideal host for this year’s show,” said Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Academy president. “We’re looking forward to an entertaining, engaging and fun show.”

Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said, “Ellen is talented, wonderfully spontaneous, and knows how to entertain a worldwide audience. She’s a big fan of the Oscars; we’re huge fans of hers. It’s a perfect match.”

DeGeneres hosted the 79th Academy Awards in 2007, for which she received a Primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program.

DeGeneres has made a home for herself in daytime with her hit syndicated talk show, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” which has earned a total of 45 Daytime Emmys during its 10 seasons.

Beginning her career as an emcee at a local comedy club in her hometown of New Orleans, DeGeneres’ acting career in television included roles in several successful sitcoms before being offered a part on “These Friends of Mine” by ABC. After the first season, the show was renamed “Ellen.” Running from 1994 to 1998, the show garnered record ratings, with DeGeneres receiving Emmy nominations each season in the Best Actress category.

In 1997 DeGeneres was the recipient of the coveted Peabody Award as well as earning an Emmy for writing the critically acclaimed “Puppy Episode,” when her character came out as a gay woman to a record 46 million viewers. DeGeneres has also been successful in her feature film work.

 The Oscars telecast will air in 225 countries and territories worldwide.

ACLU: Time for a “Modern Family” gay marriage

The ACLU is lobbying for the gay couple on “Modern Family” to get married.

ACLU Action started a campaign to urge the show’s producers to write a wedding episode for Mitchell and Cameron, fathers of an adopted child and one of three couples at the heart of the show.

The ACLU says it is appealing to the fictional family to draw more attention to the real issue as it awaits U.S. Supreme Court decisions on two important marriage equality cases.

“Mitch and Cam are a couple that America has come to know and love, and seeing them get married, and seeing the characters in the story grapple with their desire to get married, makes it real for a bigger part of America,” said James Esseks, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project at the ACLU.

Supporters are invited to “RSVP” to the wedding online. The ACLU plans to deliver the online “guest list” to the show’s producers but said it had not yet contacted the show.

Esseks said the petition was a departure for the group, but that along with filing lawsuits, lobbying for bills or organizing ballot initiatives, the group saw public education and changing the culture as part of its mission. He applauded what “Modern Family” has done already for public perception of gay couples.

“It’s a popular show, they’re a lovable, very real couple, and it would be great to see them walk down the aisle,” he said.

ABC referred questions to 20th Century Fox Studios, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Show creator Steven Levitan tweeted a link to the campaign with a simple “Wow.” Jessie Tyler Ferguson, who plays Mitchell, tweeted: “Love this! Thank you ACLU! Maybe once Prop 8 is overturned!”

On the web …

https://www.aclu.org/secure/modern-family-wedding?ms=vanity_130515_lgbt_modernfamily