NBC affiliates pass on Obama, hope to score with the Packers

Two NBC affiliates in Wisconsin have decided to choose the kickoff to the NFL regular season rather than President Obama's game plan on job creation. The president addresses the nation Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET before a joint session of Congress to talk about the unemployment rate, which continues to stand at 9.1 percent.

But WTMJ-4 in Milwaukee, along with a sister station in Green Bay, has decided to not carry the president's speech, which could potentially conflict with the Packers' 8:30 p.m. kickoff as they begin defense of their Super Bowl title against the New Orleans Saints.

Steve Wexler, executive vice president for television and radio operations of WTMJ, writes on the station's website that the Packers will be shown on the NBC network channel and the jobs speech on the cable affiliate.

"We are carrying the president on channel 4.2, which is also available on Time Warner cable channel 999. The Packers programming will be carried on channel 4.1 (Time Warner channel 4 and 1004). One of the advantages of the switch to digital TV a few years ago is the ability to program multiple channels, which allows us to offer both programs during this week's conflict."

The pregame show, set originally to air on NBC, has been punted to the NFL Network and NBC's cable affiliates, including the Versus Network.

The station was blitzed with calls and complaints but fans of politics will be able to see the speech elsewhere as every national network plans on carrying the president's speech and all the cable networks as well, including NBC's cable news network, MSNBC.

For the Packers, this past January's Super Bowl win was their first since 1996 and in football-crazy Green Bay, the pregame buildup and pageantry is perhaps more important than the unemployment issue. Coincidentally, the Wisconsin unemployment rate, as recently reported, is well below the national average.

Wexler said that he plans on watching both the speech and the start of the Packers title defense, but he insists that it wasn't politics over pigskin.

"The fact is, there will be a large audience watching the president and a large audience seeking the Packers programming," Wexler wrote. "This isn't about 'red and blue,' it's about 'green and gold' and letting audiences decide what they want to watch."

Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer.

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