"News executives of most Boston television stations are decidedly unenthusiastic about a Bush administration plan to transmit news footage from Iraq for local TV outlets in an attempt to supplement media coverage from that war-torn country," Mark Jurkowitz wrote in the December 19, 2003, Boston Globe. Jurkowitz reported on the plan to "transmit news footage from Iraq" via the satellite link dubbed C-SPAN Badhdad.
"The satellite link," he wrote, "is designed to put a more positive spin on events and circumvent the major networks by making it possible for press conferences, interviews with troops and dignitaries, and even footage from the field to be transmitted from Iraq for use by regional and local media outlets, according to news accounts."
Government officials "downplayed the suggestion that this is an attempt to manage the news. Dorrance Smith, a former ABC newsman now working for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, said the satellite link, which has functioned for the past several weeks, is 'an expansion of our ability to communicate," Jurkowitz wrote. U.S. Department of Defense spokesman Bryan Whitman "stressed the project's function to provide live briefings back to the Pentagon, but said he 'wouldn't want to rule out anything in the future.'"
- "...the new Iraq feed as 'part of a very concerted effort on the part of the Bush administration to get its message out unfiltered.' In recent months, the White House has increasingly used local television as a vehicle for countering negative images and stories coming out of Iraq."
However, news directors at Boston's WHDH and WCVB "rejected the idea of picking up Pentagon material right from Iraq. WCVB-TV news director Coleen Marren said the station is well served by the reporting resources of CNN and ABC and expressed concern at what she called 'a government-sponsored television station'," Jurkowitz wrote.
"The Pentagon has consistently tried to lighten up the news from Iraq, claiming that the media are disproportionately fixated on chaos and violence: photographers have been barred from taking pictures of body bags coming home; the White House has grumbled openly about the media's distorting 'filter'; the president has talked to the press as little as possible. Now Pentagon high-ups have discovered a new technique for shaping the news: making it themselves," Mother Jones reported December 19, 2003.
- "Columnist Antonia Zerbisias explains in the Toronto Star, that the Pentagon's new plan will gloss over the less palatable aspects of the Iraqi occupation.
- "'[T]he Pentagon is currently building what I call its own GNN -- for Good News Network -- to do an end run around the networks and beam directly from its press centre in Iraq. Just in time for election year 2004, the satellite service will counteract all those terrible stories of bombings, shootings, killings and maiming from the, you know, war.'"
Live from Baghdad, fair, balanced and direct, it's Bush TV.
The Coalition Provisional Authority running Iraq, created by the Bush administration, dissatisfied with the American television news decisions on covering the conflict, is about to create its own broadcast operation, with the capacity to bypass the networks, live from Iraq, 24 hours a day.
"We've had to rely on events covered by the networks and their interpretation, and their feed back to the United States," said Dorrance Smith, the former ABC News producer and an advisor to President Bush and his father, now senior media adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority.
"That's about to change," said Mr. Smith, "because we're about to have total 24-hour connectivity." ....
"It's C-Span Baghdad. The satellite coordinates will be for one and all and won't be dependent on somebody deciding whether they're going to put it on live."
The article also noted that "Mr. Smith, onetime producer of ABC News' This Week with David Brinkley and Nightline, is a childhood friend of the Bush family, who left ABC in 1989 to become media advisor to President George H.W. Bush, then returned for a second stint with ABC News from 1995 to 1999. He said he sympathized with the press' wartime reporting mission, but thought the C.P.A. TV operation could do it better.
"'I recognize what their obligations and responsibilities are, and they're going to cover the military side and the war side,' he said, 'but as it recedes, do they focus on the peace side or do they not focus on anything at all? We'll be in a better situation to do it ourselves and help paint a different picture than the one being portrayed.'"
Related SourceWatch Resources
- "Iraq state TV was available until the fall of the Saddam regime. The Coalition Provisional Authority (C.P.A.) established the Al-Iraqiyah TV station as part of Iraq Media Network. Based in Baghdad, the terrestrial station presents a mixture of C.P.A. announcements and Arabic music videos. It plans on broadcasting from satellite in December 2003. The station is run for the C.P.A. by San Diego-based Scientific Applications International Corporation, which won a contract from the U.S. Department of Defense."
- Mike Allen, Pentagon Plans Iraq Channel. Satellite Link Allows White House to Bypass TV Networks, Washington Post, November 15, 2003.