The death Thursday of South African leader Nelson Mandela put TV news operations in overdrive. Variety reported Thursday that Mandela’s death "sent news networks scrambling to cover the legacy of one of the 20th century’s most influential and revered political activists and humanitarians."
"News of Mandela’s death at age 95 broke late Thursday afternoon ET, which meant a race against time for the Big Three nets to cover the story on their evening newscasts," the story reports. "As of Thursday evening, none of the major broadcast nets were expected to pre-empt regularly scheduled prime-time programming. NBC has its long-awaited ‘The Sound of Music Live’ telecast set to roll tonight. The Peacock said it would offer expanded news coverage in the evening but had no plans to bump the live musical telecast."
CBS similarly said Thursday afternoon that it had no immediate plans for pre-emptions, adding that it might expand its coverage during prime time Friday or Saturday.
"The news cablers went into wall-to-wall coverage mode. CNN bumped the planned premiere of its docu ‘An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story’ for a prime-time block anchored by Anderson Cooper. CNN also has correspondent Robyn Curnow on the ground in Johannesburg," the Variety piece reports.
The report adds: "Shepard Smith anchored Fox News’ coverage, with Bret Baier scheduled to take over at 6 p.m. ET. FNC’s coverage of Mandela’s death was expected to continue during the regularly scheduled programming throughout prime time."
Al Jazeera America had Ali Velshi, John Siegenthaler and Tony Harris anchoring its Mandela coverage, the report notes. "The story will give the fledgling U.S. news net an opportunity to demonstrate the depth of its parent org’s international bureaus in showcasing global reaction to Mandela’s passing," Variety adds.