WATCH ABOVE: In his address to the nation, U.S. President Barack Obama announced he will be taking executive action to amend immigration policy
NEW YORK – ABC, CBS and NBC decided against covering President Barack Obama’s speech on immigration live on Thursday, although the Spanish-language Univision network delayed its telecast of the Latin Grammy Awards to show the address.
The news networks CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC all aired Obama live.
During the speech Obama announced that he is ordering federal action on immigration, angering Republican leaders in Congress.
The major broadcast networks generally carry presidential speeches on matters of national security and other important issues. But there can be a reluctance in executive suites if an anticipated address is seen as heavily political in nature.
It’s not clear if that’s the reasoning here. CBS News, through a spokeswoman, said it declined to comment on editorial decisions. ABC News also declined comment, and NBC News did not have an immediate response to a query.
While the president spoke, CBS aired The Big Bang Theory, television’s top-rated comedy. ABC showed an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, while NBC ran The Biggest Loser in that time slot.
A former news division president once responsible for making those decisions said that while he did not know the reasons behind the lack of coverage in this instance, he has concerns about the signal being sent.
“I think it is of real concern to the country if we come to a place where our major broadcast outlets are not fully covering the news,” said David Westin, ABC News president from 1997 to 2010. “I’m not sure we’re there yet, but I worry that we may be headed in that direction.”
The networks did offer live coverage when President George W. Bush spoke in prime-time about immigration reform in May 2006. The Nielsen company said 41.6 million people watched Bush that night, virtually identical to the audience he received for his State of the Union address a few months earlier.
Obama’s State of the Union was seen by 33.3 million people this past January, the smallest total of his presidency, Nielsen said.
WATCH: Obama unveils sweeping immigration reforms
Fox broadcasting, which doesn’t have its own news division but occasionally simulcasts Fox News Channel coverage on the network for big events, did not do so for Obama’s speech.
The Latin Grammys were to start at 8 p.m. and air live on Univision. The network said Thursday it would carry Obama live, with the Grammys delaying its start until after the president was through. Last year’s Latin Grammy telecast was seen by 4.6 million viewers.