Originally created 05/06/02

ABC to air full day of programming to commemorate 9/11



NEW YORK -- ABC will set aside its normal programming for a full day and evening on Sept. 11 to commemorate the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

The coverage will begin with "Good Morning America" at 7 a.m., break for local news in the evening, then continue through "Nightline."

"This is the major news event of our lives," ABC News President David Westin said. "This is a real opportunity go to back and comprehensively and systematically put together the facts as we now know them, and put them into some perspective."

NBC News plans a prime-time special on Sept. 10 and will have extended coverage of commemorations the following day. Other plans were still being formulated. CBS executives are also discussing their Sept. 11 plans, but have made no announcements.

The 39 million people who watched CBS' "9-11" documentary on March 10 indicates there's interest in looking back at the tragedy, or at least at the insider camera view that special offered. CBS has the contractual right to show "9-11" once more, and it's widely assumed it will be in September.

ABC News' tackling of major projects with extended programming has become something of a signature. The network drew high ratings for its marathon coverage for New Year's 2000.

The network will broadcast memorials on Sept. 11, and will present a prime-time minute-by-minute reconstruction of what happened a year earlier. Peter Jennings is also scheduled to moderate a discussion with children, similar to what he did last September.

Westin said ABC would use restraint in broadcasting disturbing images from that day, and will warn viewers if some are used. He wouldn't predict how popular the daylong special would be.

"The better way of looking at it is how important is it, and how much do we have to say about it, and the people will decide for themselves," he said.

In naming Jennings as the day's host, ABC is also being a little presumptuous: The anchor's contract expires this summer and he's currently in discussions about a new one.

"I expect him to be here," Westin said. "I think that's the least of my concerns."