Inaugural coverage: the flood starts early, runs late

Tuesday is "Ronald Reagan Day" on television, as well as in the nation as a whole, of course. But it starts even before the inauguration ceremonies. The problem will not be findingm TV coverage, it may be escapingm the coverage.

On Monday night ABC features a spectacular from 10 to 11 p.m. (New York time): The "All-Star Inaugural Gala," produced by Frank Sinatra and MC'd by Johnny Carson, starring such performers as Debby Boone, Bob Hope, Dean Martin, Ethel Merman, Grace Bumbry, Ben Vereen, and, oh yes, President-elect Ronald Reagan and family, Vice-President-elect Bush and family, and some member of the new Cabinet.

Then the flood really starts gushing next day. On ABC it starts on "Good Morning, America" on Tuesday morning at 7 a.m. (New York time) and continues till "ABC NEWS Nightline" at 11:30 p.m. In between, full coverage of all inauguration events, with the oath of office at noon. Anchors for the goings on will be Frank Reynolds, Ted Koppel, and Barbara Walters with special commentary by George Will, and such observers of the Washington social scene as Sally Quinn and Maxine Cheshire.

Meantime, over at NBC, the rush starts with the "Today Show" at 7 a.m. (New York time) and, from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m., John Chancellor and Roger Mudd will co- anchor coverage from their booth on the west front of the Capitol. Tom Brokaw and Jane Pauley, one hopes refreshed from their early morning chores, will take over from 2 to 4 p.m. Then, there will be a Chancellor summary on the evening news and an NBC News Special from 11:30 p.m. till midnight anchored by Jessica Savitch, covering the inaugural balls.

CBS will provide live coveragee from 10 a.m. till 3:30 p.m. with Walter Cronkite anchoring his last presidential inauguration for CBS. Correspondents Bob Schieffer, Bruce morton, and new evening news anchorman Dan Rather will also report. "Morning with Charles Kuralt" will actually start the day's coverage at 7 a.m. -- originating from the Capitol Hill CBS anchor booth.

If you want absolutely continuous coverage, with regular news interspersed, (and commentary by ye olde caustic critic Daniel Schorr) your best choice might be Cable News Network if your cable system carries the service. CNN is becoming the most dependable source of continuous coverage of just about everything, uninterrupted by Silly sitcoms, soaps, and game shows.

PBS will cover live from 11:30 a.m. till 1:30 p.m. with a 10-11 p.m. highlight program featuring Paul Duke.

And don't forget radio -- the major radio networks will all carry live coverage at intervals throughout the day. And many smaller independent stations and networks are also planning coverage. Television/communications et al

Is there a rented TV, videocassette player, videodisc player in your future?

I chatted the other day with Jeremy Rumfitt who heads up the American operations of Grenada TV Rental, which rents color TV, videocassette player-recorders, and soon will add videodisc players to its offerings. The parent company, Granada in England, is the second largest rental company in Britain where around 65 percent of all color sets are rented.

In America the company charges anywhere from $12 to $40 per month for the machine and delivers and services the rental free (actually so far only in the New York metropolitan area). There is a three- month minimum required, with TV rates going from around $12 to $26 per month for color TV sets, depending upon screen size, VCRs between $30 and $40.

The very British Mr. Rumfitt believes that while America may not be the best market for TV rentals because of comparatively lower prices, easy payment terms, etc., we may be a perfect market for "big ticket" items like videocassette players which retail for around $1,000. According to Mr. Rumfitt, when a consumer rents a VCR "he is not wedded to the state of the art at the time he rents it. If two or three years later there are major new developments, he can simply turn in his rental for a new model. The potential purchaser can check out various models in his own home before he makes the expensive decision to buy."

There are other rental companies in the market on regional levels and already in the works are plans for major national rental companies. The competition may soon bring prices down. So not only is there a complex variety of features on different models to choose from when you purchase, there is also the question, if you prefer renting, of choosing the best rental deal. Another Vietnam?

Insiders are reporting that on Sunday from 10 to 11 p.m. (check local listings) PBS will be airing one of the most exciting but sometimes disturbing documentaries of the year.

Producer Glenn Silber's "El Salvador: Another Vietnam" was not ready for previewing at press time, but WNET public affairs director Jerome Toobin told me it features terrific last-minute footage, including interviews with the President of El Salvador and some of the troublesome guerrillas.

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