Despite the great significance of Barack Obama's planned executive action on immigration reform, the four major television broadcast networks are not planning to cover the president's Thursday night address where he is expected to announce his plan.
ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX have all indicated they won't break their planned programming to cover Obama's 8 p.m. ET speech. CNN's Brian Stelter first reported that ABC, NBC and CBS were opting out, and an official with FOX confirmed the same with The Hill.
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) November 19, 2014
CNN, MSNBC, FOX News and other cable news networks were expected to air the speech, as was PBS.
But the networks that cater to an audience who will be very interested in what the president has to say cleared the time for the address, CNN reported. The vice president of Univision, the nation's leading Spanish-language network, announced plans to interrupt its airing of the Latin Grammy Awards for the president's address. Telemundo, the other big Spanish-language network in the U.S. will also show the speech live. And the White House is expected to stream the event online.
Stelter reported that White House officials decided against formally requesting that the major networks carry the address after getting the impression that they would be hesitant to do so, reports echoed by Deadline and The Hill. November is sweeps month, when primetime slots become all the more valuable. The four major networks have shows slotted for 8 p.m. that attract big audiences, including the fall finale of "Grey’s Anatomy" on ABC, Deadline noted.
Obama announced the address on Wednesday, saying "everybody agrees that our immigration system is broken," and, "I'm going to be laying out is the things that I can do with my lawful authority as president to make the system work better."
While the exact details of the president's plans to sidestep Congress are not known, the sweeping reforms could potentially shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.
The president's expected executive action on immigration has prompted protest among Republicans, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) who said on Wednesday that Congress should take legal action in response.