CBS News Executives Speak Out on License Fees, Dan Rather at TCA

By Alex Weprin Comment

CBS News chairman Jeff Fager, CBS News president David Rhodes and new “CBS Evening News” anchor Scott Pelley appeared at the Television Critics Association Summer press tour. The trio talked about a variety of topics, including the new evening newscasts, news budgets and former “Evening News” anchors Dan Rather and Katie Couric.

With regard to the recent public discussion over news organizations paying license fees, Fager called it a “terrible practice,” adding:

“We’ve had people approach us at 60 Minutes regularly who say we want money for pictures, we want you to pay for video. We won’t do it,” said Fager, who also is the executive producer of the Sunday newsmagazine. “I know it’s happened in stories in the past. For a certain sum, a small fee, pictures become available. I’m against it, I’m against it for our organization. Others want to do it?  Fine. There are so many stories out there to tell. We don’t need to get involved in that line of work. It goes against everything it stands for.”

With regards to Couric, Fager said that some viewers that had tuned out when she anchored may be returning to the newscast:

“I think there’s no doubt that some of the people who are tuning in are coming back,” he said.  “I think we did lose some viewers in recent years.”

Fager also said:

“I think at some point she realized she really needed to move on and spread her wings in a way that is more appropriate for her,” he said. “I think she was frustrated [on the Evening News]. She handled it as well as she could. And I think they have a lot over those years to be very proud of.”

Then there is Rather. The legendary newsman and mentor to Pelley. Fager said that because of the way the relationship ended between CBS and Rather, it was unlikely he would ever return to the Tiffany Network.

“Things ended so badly that it’s difficult to see how it could be reconciled,” Fager recalled. “I hate the way that it ended,” Pelley added, noting that Rather was the first person to congratulate him when he got the job.