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Broadcasters Prepare for another Wilsonian Moment at SOTU

B&C’s Marisa Guthrie talks with TV News execs about the upcoming State of the Union Address, tentatively set for Jan. 26. With the Hill bitterly divided over health care, and a tight Senate race in Massachusetts threatening to scuttle the bill, will there be another (Joe) Wilsonian outburst?

“I don’t know that because [Wilson] spoke out at that speech it’s going to cause a lot of people to be boisterous in the hall,” says CNN DC Bureau Chief David Bohrman. “They’re generally a well-behaved group; some will applaud and some will sit on their hands. But I don’t think we’re anticipating question time in Parliament.”

Exposure can be a motivating factor. More than 30 million viewers watched last September’s speech on eight networks. And if there is a spontaneous eruption of vitriol from a member of Congress, as opposed to the more mundane disruptions of anonymous protesters who periodically wrangle their way into the cheap seats, the pool director will not refrain from showing it.

“If it’s newsworthy, we cover it,” says CBS News EVP Paul Friedman. “And if somebody does something like that, it’s automatically news, given the setting. So there’s no way to duck it or want to duck it.”

> Update: FishbowlDC reports the State of the Union will be held next Wednesday, January 27.

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