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News directors say NBC is top network news division

September 16, 1997 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ NBC swept past ABC and CNN to be judged best network news division in a survey of television and radio news directors, while a trade publication on Monday chose NBC News President Andrew Lack as the most powerful person in the business.

They were two more signs of a changing of the guard in network news, where NBC has seen its nightly news and ``Dateline NBC″ dominate the ratings.

Fifty-one percent of news directors surveyed by Broadcasting & Cable magazine chose NBC as the strongest network news division. ABC was the choice of 29 percent, CNN had 16 percent and CBS lagged badly at 4 percent.

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Fifty-six percent of news directors rated NBC’s ``Nightly News″ the best evening news program, while 34 percent chose ABC’s ``World News Tonight.″ The ``CBS Evening News″ was the choice of 8 percent.

It was the first time in the five years that the magazine has been conducting the survey that news directors chose NBC’s nightly news program over ABC’s.

Also Monday, Electronic Media magazine declared Lack the most powerful person in television news, citing his division’s profitability, the performance of its news shows and the emergence of cable affiliate MSNBC. ABC News Chairman Roone Arledge, last year’s top pick, slipped to No. 2.

``We don’t take anything for granted _ anything _ so every aspect of our work is given a great deal of attention,″ Lack said in an interview. ``That may sound simple, but it takes a great deal of energy.″

The success also proves that spending more doesn’t always produce better work, he said. NBC has chosen to devote its resources to what it determines are the best stories rather than try to send crews to every story.

News directors still love Peter Jennings, though. Forty-nine percent chose him as the best nightly news anchor, while 39 percent named NBC’s Tom Brokaw. CBS’s Dan Rather was the choice of 6 percent and CNN’s Bernard Shaw had 4 percent.

The survey was particularly bad news for CNN, which was rated the strongest news organization just last year, and for struggling CBS.

CBS News President Andrew Heyward is scheduled to speak to a convention of news directors this week, outlining a plan to avoid a repeat of the network’s disastrously slow jump on the death of Princess Diana.

Broadcasting & Cable surveyed 97 news directors _ 30 from NBC, 28 from ABC and 20 from CBS. The rest worked at Fox, UPN, WB or independent stations.