Byrd Family Wants Cameras Out; RTCA Wants In

The Radio and TV Correspondents Association has penned a letter of petition (see after the jump…) to Sen. Chuck Schumer arguing why cameras ought to be let into the Senate Chamber where the late Sen. Robert Byrd lies in repose. Apparently it is the family who does not want cameras inside, and the Senate is respecting their wishes. But RTCA board member and FNC’s Chad Pergram makes a solid point: “It was Sen. Byrd himself who opened the Senate to television coverage in 1986.”

Below is Schumer’s response. He says, “I regret that your request cannot be granted.”

Radio-TV Response - Late Senator Byrd - 06-30-10.jpg

June 30, 2010

Honorable Charles Schumer, Chairman
Senate Committee on Rules and Administration
305 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Schumer,

The passing of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) has made this a sad time in the Senate. Many of us in the press who covered him for years share in your sorrow.

However, the Executive Committee of the Radio-Television Correspondents Association would like to petition the Senate at this somber time.

The Executive Committee respectfully requests that the Senate approve a resolution to allow pool television coverage of the Senate chamber while the late senator lies in repose on Thursday, July 1, 2010.

It was Sen. Byrd himself who opened the Senate to television coverage in 1986. In the past few days, the nation has noted the senator’s long service and his work. The country has taken an interest in his passing. We believe it would be appropriate to allow those, who are not able to pay their respects to Sen. Byrd in person, to view the solemn proceedings.

The Executive Committee could accomplish this goal with a pooled media arrangement. Another consideration would be for the Senate to provide coverage via the fixed cameras already in the chamber that televise the floor proceedings each day. As has been precedent with the Reagan and Ford services in the Rotunda, we would respect any requests for “administrative time” to set up the chamber or, more importantly, “private time” with family members, friends or colleagues.

Sen. Byrd’s iconic status makes him an historic figure. But he was a also a man of history. This is an historic moment in the Congressional legacy. And itÂ’s unfolding in the very institution that the senator championed for most of his adult life. It is fitting to honor Sen. Byrd on the Senate floor. It would be remarkable if the historic record has no video documentation of the senatorÂ’s final time in the Senate.

This is a moment to remember. And the Executive Committee respectfully asks that our membership capture it on camera.

We appreciate your speedy consideration of this request.

Thank you.

On behalf of the Executive Committee, Very Sincerely,

Chad Pergram, Fox News

Peter Slen, C-SPAN
Jay McMichael, CNN
Leigh Ann Caldwell, Free Speech Radio News
Jeffrey Ballou, Al Jazeera
Jill Jackson, CBS News
Andrea Seabrook, National Public Radio

cc: Hon. Harry Reid
Hon. Mitch McConnell
Hon. Jay Rockefeller
Ms. Barbara Videnieks, Chief-of-Staff, Hon. Robert C. Byrd
Jesse Jacobs, Press Secretary, Hon. Robert C. Byrd