How the networks kicked off coverage of primetime Capitol insurrection hearing

The June 9, 2022, primetime hearings into the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was carried live by most major U.S. broadcast and cable news networks.

Broadcast networks began coverage at 8 p.m. eastern, with streaming and cable networks starting prior to that. The actual start of the hearing appears to have been purposefully delayed approximately two minutes past the hour, a common practice with events like this to allow the networks time to broadcast introductory material. 

CBS News blended a version of its updated special report open with a short collage of clips to kick off the coverage. It stuck with its normal special report music, which has an urgent, serious tone to it that matched the on-screen imagery well.

CBS notably had one of the shorter opens that evening.

Like most other networks, CBS would typically frame the presentation feed provided by the committee along with a credit line referring to the content as “exhibits” or “evidence.” In some cases, the networks would also insert a warning about graphic content or profanity. 

Running third-party feeds or content in boxed layouts like this is common in TV news as way to allow the network to both credit the content and also, quite literally, frame it not being produced by the network itself.

ABC started with anchor David Muir appearing briefly on camera, followed by an open using its often-used dramatic female announcer accompanied by on-screen pull-quote style text — a common format for the network.

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When still imagery appeared on camera, ABC used a common technique of separating the focal point of the image from the background and applying a subtle animation effect. 

ABC’s framed layout used a deep blue background with hints of the Capitol dome in it set above the branded bar along the bottom of the screen. ABC combined the feed credit with the warning label.

As previously noted, NBC and MSNBC used the network’s existing January 6 look for its coverage, including an edited montage of topical imagery combined with textural elements with anchor Lester Holt reading over it before yielding to a short animation with an ominous hard-hitting musical bed.

Somewhat unusually, NBC News‘ coverage was split across coasts. Holt, who did not anchor “NBC Nightly News” Monday, June 6, 2022 or Tuesday, June 7, 2022, anchored from Los Angeles June 8, 2022 and June 9, 2022 and remained there for the hearing coverage.

The network looped in correspondents and panelists from various locations across the Capitol, including the White House and Capitol Hill as well as multiple venues within its Washington, D.C. bureau, each shown on-screen in individual boxes rather than have all or most talent in the same studio as is often done for these types of special events.

Both MSNBC and NBC used nearly identical lower third graphics, including a full width branding bar running along the bottom of the screen, a common tactic for both networks. This design did appear to incorporate a baked in black bar along the very bottom of the graphic, rather than have the bar’s background bleed off the screen as is normally done with this layout.

The technique of incorporate black elements into animation and graphics was also used in the open, creating a purposeful, slightly offset look for the primary content area.

The MSNBC feed frequently featured a “breaking news” label in black just above the primary lower third area. Around framed content, a red background with stylized imagery of the Capitol dome on the right and textural elements on the left were featured.

Fox’s flagship cable channel did not carry live, interrupted coverage of the hearing, instead airing coverage with co-hosts Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier on Fox Business, with the same primary feed made available to affiliates and on its digital platforms.

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The same cable channel was the only major English-language broadcast or cable news network to opt out of airing the coverage, though it did dip in to feeds from inside the hearing room throughout its normal primetime programming. It also offered post-hearing analysis after primetime completed.

Fox’s layout for the committee presentation feed featured a blue tinted image of the Capitol (though the more recognizable dome was not included).

Fox also displayed the presentation feed in a fullscreen format, with only the bug and sliver along the bottom of the screen, which did include a dome image inserted along with a credit and warning box in the upper right.

CNN launched its coverage with a montage featuring an announcer and included multiple video effects and animated elements such as filmstrip-style looks.

CNN’s framed layout feature the inside of the Capitol rotunda as background imagery. It also placed the feed content right up against the top of the screen and extending slightly behind its normal lower third bar and bug, which resulted in some content be covered on occasion. The layout meant the background was more like pillarboxing and did not shrink the image as much, but also resulted in some of it being cut off, unlike the designs used on other networks.

MSNBC used a similar look to NBC and opened coverage with a narrated collage featuring Rachel Maddow.

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