“Television journalists operate at a distinct disadvantage on Capitol Hill because of archaic rules dictating how, when and where we may use our TV cameras” — and the Radio TV Correspondents Association Executive Committee is sick and tired of it.
In an e-mail to the 2,600 members of the Congressional Radio TV Correspondents Association yesterday, chairman Brian Wilson (a Fox News correspondent and anchor) explained that Bill Frist, Harry Reid and Trent Lott have denied the group’s requests for “the right to set up stakeout cameras in the news-rich Ohio Clock corridor without requesting permission in advance.”
Wilson explains: “TV cameras are only allowed there with the advance permission of Senate leadership. Any time news happens that they do not want covered, Senate leaders deny our request for a stakeout. This is news management pure and simple.“
The executive committee is asking individuals to help their fight for greater access. Click continued to read the full letter and find out how to help…
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
As many of you know from first-hand experience, television journalists operate at a distinct disadvantage on Capitol Hill because of archaic rules dictating how, when and where we may use our TV cameras. While other journalists roam free to ply their trade — we often must have the permission of Hill leaders to even set up our cameras. Even then, we are placed behind velvet ropes and managed carefully by Capitol Police. We can all recall incidents where the police stopped TV cameras from covering certain Hill events while still photographers breeze by and snap pictures unfettered and free. How many times have we seen TV cameras blocked while tourists with camcorders walk past untouched? Since last December the Radio TV Correspondents Association Executive Committee has been working to change this long-standing inequity.
We started by endorsing a very bold initiative which brought Hill leaders into negotiations. During that process, it became clear that change would have to come in incremental steps. So, after much discussion, we withdrew the initial request and asked for one thing and one thing only: the right to set up stakeout cameras in the news-rich Ohio Clock corridor without requesting permission in advance. Our request mirrors the current rules in place at the long-standing Will Rogers stakeout position on the House side. This request was unanimously supported by our friends in the Print, Periodical and Still Photographer Galleries.
A bit of background about the Ohio Clock corridor: This is where congressional reporters gather much of the information they need to report stories of great importance to the American people. TV cameras are only allowed there with the advance permission of Senate leadership. Any time news happens that they do not want covered, Senate leaders deny our request for a stakeout. This is news management pure and simple. We are routinely denied the opportunity to gather the images and sound we need to tell our stories. When RTCA members complain, we are told in no uncertain terms that Senate leaders control hallway access and if we choose to challenge their decision — we will be arrested. *
Despite our best efforts to work through the system, we have just been informed by Senate Sergeant at Arms, Bill Pickle that Majority Leader Bill Frist, Minority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Rules Chairman, Trent Lott, have considered our request and have turned us down flat.
Your RTCA Executive Committee believes this modest request was fair, and was crafted in a way that would allow us to gather news while not interfering with institutional decorum. At a time when Congress is widely accused of conducting too much of its business in secret, this would have been a wonderful opportunity to seem more transparent. Instead, Senate leaders demonstrated they care more about protecting the status quo than the First Amendment.
Now we need your help in this fight for greater access. If you feel so led, please send an email expressing your thoughts on this matter to the names below.
Eric_Euland@frist.senate.gov; Amy_Call@frist.senate.gov; Susan_McCue@reid.senate.gov; Jim_Manley@reid.senate.gov; Susan_Wells@rules.senate.gov; Bill_Pickle@saa.senate.gov
And feel free to forward this message to others who might care about increased access for TV news cameras on Capitol Hill.
On behalf of RTCA Executive Committee members: Ted Barrett/ CNN, Steve Chaggaris/ CBS News, Heather Dahl/ Capitol News Connection, Linda Kenyon/ SRN, Brian Naylor/ NPR, and Annie Tin/ CSPAN — who all participated in the writing of this email â€“ Thanks in advance.
Brian Wilson / Fox News,
Chairman, Radio Television Correspondents Association