Broadcasters Talk Terrorism

Broadcast newspeople appear to have at least a couple of allies in their petition for access to more information from the government.

According to Radio-Television News Directors Association President Barbara Cochran, who testified at a Homeland Security Committee Hearing in Washington Wednesday, Democrats Norman Dicks of Washington and Jim Turner of Texas, expressed their concerns that the government had gone overboard in its effort to place records off limits in the name of Homeland Security.

The hearing was on broadcasters' role in combating terrorism, and included the usual criticisms of media bias from the Hill--Republicans and Democrats--said Cochran. She said all the witnesses, which included local news executives Bob Long of KNBC Los Angeles and Greg Caputo of WGN-TV Chicago, talked of keeping the role of journalists and government separate.

Cochran used the hearing as an opportunity to express RTNDA's concerns with attacks on the Freedom of Information Act. She pointed to information that had disappeared from government agency Web sites and new categories of information, including infrastructure information, being removed from public view. That, she said, was one obstacle to broadcasters' role in keeping the public informed.

The broadcasters, instead, talked about the steps they had taken to prepare themselves to report the most accurate information they could in the most timely manner possible, including technological back-up plans and tapping the brains of experts on terrorism.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.