BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — CBS News will overhaul its coverage of the 2016 Democratic and Republican conventions to emphasize participants "on the ground" rather than chatter in the network's skybox, CBS News President David Rhodes said.
Dismissing any predictions of a candidate's selection coming down to the convention wire — "It's not going to happen," he said — Rhodes said there is news being made by decision-makers and others at the convention.
He said his bias is toward coverage of what they are doing and saying as opposed to putting resources into the "air-conditioned skyboxes" above the convention floor that typically showcase network reporters and analysts.
Traditional keynote speeches and other major scheduled events will be aired, he said. But there is an ongoing "dance" between the political parties and networks over coverage, with all involved spending "a lot of money" on the conventions, Rhodes told a TV critics' meeting Monday.
CBS is on to tap to air primary election debates for the Democratic and Republican presidential contenders, with the network airing the Nov. 14 Democratic debate and the GOP one set for Feb. 13. Both are Saturday nights, which typically attract smaller TV audiences.
The moderator for each will be John Dickerson, CBS News' political director and anchor of "Face the Nation," Rhodes said.
He was asked if CBS would limit the number of candidates, as Fox News Channel did — using poll numbers — for the first Republican candidate debate last week. The first Democratic debate is set for Oct. 13 in Nevada.
In a "perfect world," every candidate would be able to participate, he said, but a line has to be drawn given large candidate fields. He said the formula for the CBS-aired debates would be made closer to the dates.
Dickerson, who recently succeeded the retired Bob Schieffer as host of "Face the Nation," spoke with relish about covering the '16 election, and not just because of GOP contender Donald Trump or the unexpected candidacy of Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders.
"This was going to be an exciting election before it became the Summer of Trump," because both parties will be picking candidates in the absence of an incumbent president running, Dickerson said.
Add to that the feeling of many Americans that politics is "rigged" against them and their worries about major issues including terrorism and it makes for an energized political climate, he said.