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RTDNA Survey Finds Unprecedented Attacks on Broadcast Journalists

RTDNA Survey
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One in five broadcast TV news directors report attacks on their employees while on the job and Congress needs to do something about it.

That is according to a new survey released by the Radio Television Digital News Association, which found that broadcast journalists "faced unprecedented levels of verbal and physical violence at the hands of civilians, police and the leaders we are meant to hold accountable."

Also Read: CPJ Spotlights Journalist Threats in Capitol Siege

For the first time, RTDNA's annual survey of broadcast newsrooms included a questions on media safety given coverage of last summer's protests of the killing of George Floyd.

RTDNA said it was alarmed by what it found, which included the reported attacks and the fact that a vast majority (86%) of news directors said they had changed newsroom procedures to protect employees, including buying bullet-proof vests and gas masks, as well as sending security teams along on assignments.

More than half of the attacks on journalists reported in the survey involved coverage of civil unrest, protests marches, rallies and riots.

But RTDNA was doing more than just relaying troubling responses.

The organization said it was time for Congress to act, and to give that body a little shove, it sought support for a petition to Congress in support of the Journalist Protection Act and the Right to Record Police Act.

The National Association of Broadcasters said it was "gravely troubled" by the survey. 

“Broadcast journalists play an essential role in documenting pivotal moments in American history from the front lines. That has never been more important than during the past year," said NAB president Gordon Smith of the "unprecedented level of harassment, intimidation and violence directed at journalists covering the historical events of 2020."

Smith said such attacks undermine democracy. "We are grateful to the dedicated broadcast journalists bringing the truth to Americans during these dangerous times.”

John Eggerton
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.