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Networks Ready the Grand Finale of Election ’92

November 3, 1992

NEW YORK (AP) _ Tuesday night was the last act of the biggest political show in TV history.

″It’s our big finale,″ said Phil Alongi, NBC News coordinating producer. ″Everything we’ve done all year long comes together on election night.″

Campaign ’92 has been a show that, since last winter, stretched from dawn to ″Arsenio″ and on through the wee hours, from ″Today″ to ″Nightline″ to debates to infomercials.

How big has the campaign been? So-o-o-o-o big that NBC decided to cover the extravaganza’s last hurrah from the site of TV’s fabled ″REALLY big show.″

Although its anchors usually are billeted in studios at network headquarters in Rockefeller Center, NBC News set up its command post for Tuesday night’s broadcast several blocks west, at the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway.

On the very stage where Bill Clinton’s hero, Elvis Presley, wowed the vast viewing audience of ″The Ed Sullivan Show″ a generation ago, Tom Brokaw was heading NBC’s finish-line view of Clinton’s race against President Bush and Ross Perot.

The decision to move was not guided by nostalgia, but by a need for extra elbow room. The postmodern ″Decision ’92″ set included a 25-screen video wall supplied by the same firm hired for the Democratic National Convention.

Space wasn’t a problem at ABC headquarters a dozen blocks north, where the network resurrected the enormous, two-tiered set used for election coverage four years ago.

Before airtime Tuesday, the cavernous creation, with chromed spiral stairways and a VIP booth kept out of view by a one-way scrim, was as grand as a disco before the party starts.

On West 57th Street, the ″CBS Evening News″ set was supplemented with additional desks, backdrops in shades of blue, and dozens of TV monitors that actually were there so viewers would see dozens of TV monitors.

But a set and the correspondents who occupy it aren’t all of the story. Nor are satellite feeds from such strategic places as Little Rock, Ark., and Houston.

The big star of the election night show was numbers, plain and simple.

Lane Venardos, CBS’ vice president for hard news and special events, spoke proudly of his network’s computer-generated graphics. He called the new system ″faster than a speeding bullet.″

″The graphics are not there just to fill the screen with numbers,″ he said. ″They have to help tell the story, in a very clear and obvious way.″

The computer and design work began 14 months ago, he said, ″and we’ve been programming computers here night and day for the past month.″

What’s Venardos’ role in the control room once coverage begins?

″To decide what happens next,″ he said with a laugh. ″That really doesn’t sound like much, does it?″

He tried again: ″It’s like changing a tire on a moving truck.″

2 1439EST

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