Bob Schieffer sees ‘Face the Nation’ expand 20 years after he started asking for another 30 minutes

Bob Schieffer is so happy about his Sunday morning news panel show, “Face The Nation,” being expanded from 30 to 60 minutes in the spring that he’d probably like to spike his keyboard and do an end zone dance in the show’s production studio.

Was this a long time in the works?

“That would literally be the understatement of the year!” Schieffer told me, laughing.

“I have literally been trying for 20 years. When Tim Russert first went to NBC and took over ‘Meet The Press,’ and asked them to give him an hour — the proposal he made was ‘Give me an hour for three months. If it works, fine; if not, I’ll give you the half-hour back.’ He got his bosses to OK that and within weeks of going to an hour, they went to number one. Along about that same time, I went to my bosses. I said, ‘They’re going to an hour; I think it’s really going to hurt.’ The bosses at the same time said, ‘No, it won’t make any difference. No, we’re not interested in doing that.’ So off and on for the last 20 years, every two or three years I’ll go in and say ‘How about going to an hour? I think we can really make it work.’ “

“We have new bosses now,” Schieffer said. CBS News chairman Jeff Fager and CBS News president David Rhodes said, “It’s time to try that.”

The AP’s David Bauder reports that “CBS News management has wanted for years to expand the show, but has been hampered by restrictions at its affiliates.”

The time is now because ratings for “Face The Nation” have been on the rise, beating “Meet The Press,” Sunday morning’s long-time leader.

Schieffer said this year’s never-dull Republican presidential primary campaign has been the only fuel his show needed, drawing a steady stream of viewers despite heavy competition from football on Sundays.

“I think all of these debates have really had something to do with our success,” he said. “Some of them have been on Saturday night or late in the week and it gives us something fresh to ask.”

The expansion and rising ratings of “Face The Nation” come as changes may be afoot at its ABC competitor, “This Week,” where the New York Post reported on Friday that host Christiane Amanpour may be leaving the chair.

What can “Face The Nation” do in 60 minutes that it couldn’t in 30?

“More!” Schieffer said, laughing again. “We don’t plan to change the format at all. We plan to use the time to ask a few more questions, to make the interview segments a little longer than they were. But we’re not going to change something that we don’t think is broken… We’re trying to advance the story. We’re trying to make news.”

Listen to the entire interview with Bob Schieffer:

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