Brian Williams to leave CNBC show

NEW YORK: As he prepares to succeed Tom Brokaw as the anchor of the NBC Nightly News after the 2004 presidential election, Brian Williams is shedding a high-profile assignment on one of the network's cable channels.


Beginning in January, CNBC's The News with Brian Williams will have a different anchor, NBC News announced on 10 November. Williams has been the anchor of the one-hour, prime-time news program on CNBC since July 2002, when NBC News shifted it from a sister channel, MSNBC, to make room for the short-lived return to television of Phil Donahue.

"We are heading into an incredibly busy news cycle in 2004 with the primary season, the conventions, the Olympics and the elections,'' NBC News president Neal Shapiro said. "With the transition at 'Nightly' on the horizon, it's more important than ever that Williams is able to turn his full attention to the network for the coverage of these stories.''

Nonetheless, the change comes when the ratings for Williams's program are substantially lower than a year ago. In October the program drew an average of 439,000 viewers, a decrease of 41 per cent from the same month a year ago, when its average viewership was 743,000, according to Nielsen Media Research.

But NBC executives said that the decision to relieve Williams of his duties had nothing to do with ratings, and that they considered such comparisons unfair. In October 2002, they said, Williams' ratings - along with those of other news programs - were unusually high because of coverage of the sniper shootings in the Washington area.

Last month, they pointed out that Williams was frequently absent from his program, as he traveled to Rome (for the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II) and to California (for the recall election) on behalf of NBC News.

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