Former NBC and CBS Fill-In Anchor Blames Deregulation for Fall of TV News

Never mind nightly TV newscasts are geared toward older generation. Never mind scandals like Dan Rather and the falsified National Guard documents leading up to the 2004 presidential elections have caused people to look for their news from other sources like the Internet and talk radio.

Former "CBS Evening News" weekend and fill-in anchor and NBC's "Meet the Press" and "Nightly News" co-anchor Roger Mudd places the blame for the decline of television news on there being too many choices - with cable television.

"[B]ut there were so few [good TV news writers] because we became dependent on pictures and that coupled with deregulation of television, when you had three, four networks - and suddenly, there are 20, then there are 50 and now there are 300 and however many - 500," he said. "And as a consequence, the pie that used to be sliced three or four ways is now slivers and as a consequence, everybody is trying to hold on to their little audience and to do that, you got to entertain."

Mudd spoke to an audience at Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C., on April 13. He was promoting his book "The Place to Be: Washington, CBS, and the Glory Days of Television News."

Mudd said "the one bright light that still shines" was PBS's "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," but that there was very little cause for optimism for TV news.

"It's disappointing and it's almost self-defeating because the attention-span is getting shorter and shorter," Mudd added.

Mudd accused the media of "following the flag" in the lead-up to the Iraq war for not altering public opinion prior to the invasion.

"[I] think that one of the weaknesses with the press, more so with television, is that they tend to follow the flag in times of national crisis, when all his advisors say this is the way it is," Mudd said. "The tendency is - there are exceptions like the McClatchy papers for instance - the tendency is to go with the leadership and that gets us into a lot of trouble. It's not self-correcting and I think in this case, those were the circumstances that caused the press to wobble on following up with what should have been followed up."