[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
[infowar.de] NYT 22.03.03: For Networks, Questions on Coverage of the War
March 22, 2003
For Networks, Questions on Coverage of the War
By BILL CARTER
As the images of war fully took over television, several news divisions
faced challenges and questions yesterday about their coverage of the attack
CNN lost access to its principle reporters in Baghdad, as Nic Robertson and
Rym Bahimi, along with their production crew, were ordered out of the city
by Iraqi officials.
The Fox News Channel had to deal with questions about deciding to give the
Pentagon its exclusive tape of the fatal crash of a Marine helicopter while
keeping it off the air most of the day.
CBS and NBC drew criticism for their decisions to switch from war coverage
on Thursday night and yesterday to programming that included the National
Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament and episodes of two
sitcoms, "Friends" and "Will and Grace."
CNN executives were stunned early yesterday morning when they were informed
that Mr. Robertson and his colleagues were being immediately expelled. The
executives said the sole reason given was that CNN was representing the
United States government. The executives said CNN was the lone American
news outlet actually viewed in Baghdad and was thus the most obvious target
of outrage over the invasion.
The timing could hardly have been worse for CNN. Only hours after Mr.
Robertson's group was ordered out of the capital, the city was hit with
extensive bombing carried live on every news channel. CNN, which
distinguished itself 12 years ago as the lone network with correspondents
reporting live as planes bombed Baghdad, had counted on Mr. Robertson's
reports to complement the live images of the raid.
With Mr. Robertson silenced, NBC and ABC enjoyed the advantage of having
the only running commentary on the attacks on American television, from
reporters hired as freelancers, Peter Arnett for NBC, as well as its sister
network on cable, MSNBC, and Richard Engel for ABC.
Late yesterday, CNN added exclusive reporting at the scene from a
freelancer, May Ying Welsh. CNN executives said Mr. Robertson and his team
were trying to leave Iraq by car through Jordan this morning.
Fox News said it withheld pictures of the helicopter crash that killed four
American marines and eight British commandos on Thursday as a courtesy to
the British government. Fox executives said London had requested that the
tape not be shown until the victims' families had been notified.
Competitors suggested that Fox had been too willing to surrender its
independence as a news gatherer.
The copy of the tape was turned over by Oliver L. North, the former Marine
colonel and Reagan administration official who is traveling with a Marine
unit as a correspondent.
Fox executives acknowledged that they were under no obligation to turn over
the tape or delay showing it. The tape, with grainy images of the crash,
appeared on Fox shortly after 6 o'clock last night.
NBC and CBS switched from coverage to commercial programs on Thursday
night, becoming the first networks to abandon news in prime time since the
war began. NBC, which makes its biggest profits on Thursday, relied on its
usual comedy lineup from 8 to 10. CBS dropped news for the basketball
tournament, an event for which it has paid hundreds of millions of dollars.
The president of NBC Entertainment, Jeff Zucker, said: "We had been on the
air with news coverage for 12 hours straight. When it looked like there was
not going to be any new events that night, we decided to go with our
The president of CBS Television, Leslie Moonves, said making the decision
had been wrenching. Like Mr. Zucker he said he decided on Thursday night
that the war news was slowing down.
Mr. Moonves also decided to begin covering basketball yesterday afternoon,
even though, he said, "we got a little advance warning that the bombing was
about to start." CBS pulled away from basketball midway through the first
half of its first scheduled game.
Two CBS News executives expressed some frustration over being pre-empted by
basketball, but said the decision was being accepted as a necessity. CBS
has a deal in place to switch the games to ESPN, which it did for the rest
of the afternoon.
The NBC comedy lineup was easily the most-watched attraction of the night,
drawing an average of 13.6 million viewers.
Basketball suffered, however, drawing 7.6 million viewers, down from 10.5
million for the first night of the tournament a year ago.
On cable, Fox News again asserted its command on viewers, winning the
all-day prime-time competitions, although its margins over CNN were smaller
than in recent months.
Fox News averaged 4.1 million viewers for all-day coverage and 6.2 million
in prime time. CNN had 3.7 million daytime viewers and 5 million in prime time.
Mail an infowar -
- infopeace -
de mit "unsubscribe" im Text.