Inauguration: Coming Soon To A Television Set Near You! (Maybe!)

This weekend kicks off the beginning of the much-anticipated inaugural celebrations in Washington, DC. But it appears that television coverage of the events will not be quite universally accessible.

The headlining swearing-in ceremony is set to take place at 11:30 am on Tuesday, January 20, a rather awkward time during the weekday 9-5 routine, which prompts the question: why so early? (If NBC could convince the IOC to schedule swimming events for early Beijing mornings for the convenience of our American prime-time audiences, perhaps the big media outlets could shift the inauguration to a more convenient 8/7 Central?) As it turns out, there is an authority that can override the interests of network executives—the U.S. Constitution (Amendment XX, Section 1):

The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.

So, while every network will be tuned in to the activities on the Capitol steps Tuesday morning, the weekend-long inauguration celebration won’t be able to be viewed on every channel. CNN reports on the varied coverage:

HBO paid for exclusive rights to televise Sunday’s [free, star-studded concert at the Lincoln Memorial], but its feed will be free to all cable and satellite viewers from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. ET. It cannot be seen through local broadcast television stations.
The Disney Channel will carry Monday night’s big event — “Kids’ Inaugural: We Are The Future” — from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. ET. Those who don’t have cable will be able to hear it live on Radio Disney or watch it online later at

Meanwhile, the Presidential Inauguration Committee website states that the “first ever” Neighborhood Inaugural Ball will be broadcast live on ABCfrom 8-10 PM EST. To everyone who (like us) won’t be able to witness the inaugural events firsthand: best of luck tuning in this week.

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Sara Germano is an intern at CJR.