Saturday, December 30, 2006

TV Networks Debate Whether To Show Execution

Looks like CBS is the only one of the major networks right now with any kind of journalistic integrity. There is a raging debate going on among the major networks over whether to air graphic footage of Saddam Hussein's hanging. (Such footage has not surfaced yet; the debate is over what they will do when it does.) CBS is the only network to unequivocally say it will not show pictures of the execution. [Bolds mine.]

Though it was not known whether images of the execution would be released, the news divisions at ABC and CBS said that, should video become available, they will show some visual documentation of Saddam's death but will not use overly graphic images or show complete execution.

NBC News, however, indicated it might go further. Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, said that network may show "a wide shot of Saddam hanging." He said NBC would make its decision based on questions both of taste and of history.

"I think it might be appropriate at some point to see an image of Saddam after he is hanged," Mr. Capus said, citing previous historic images of dictators who had been killed. "I think about that iconic image of Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania, lying literally in the gutter," Mr. Capus said. "I want to do this with a measure of taste, but I don't want to stand in the way of history

The cable news networks CNN and the Fox News Channel were less definitive about what limits they might not impose on any images of Mr. Hussein in death, saying they would decide after they saw what was available. (MSNBC, the cable channel owned by NBC, will follow the policies of NBC News.)

None of this means that the complete images of the hanging, should such video be taken by Iraqi authorities, will be unavailable. Executives throughout the television news business said they fully expect these images to turn up at least on Web sites.
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"Somehow it will get out," said Paul Friedman, vice president of CBS News. "That video is going to be available somewhere on some channel or some site." Mr. Friedman said he had met with the CBS News staff working today and told them: "There will be a lot of pressure to use the pictures" of the actual hanging. But he added, "CBS will not show it, no matter what."

Bob Murphy, the senior vice president of ABC News, said the network planned to interrupt whatever program was being broadcast to report the news of the execution in the form of a brief report. "I suspect there will be some form of video released that will confirm the death for the Iraqi people," Mr. Murphy said. ABC will "fulfill our obligations as journalists in documenting the event," he said. But he emphasized, "We will absolutely not go too far in showing graphic images. Taste and propriety are the two key guidelines."

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