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11.09.2005
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Cochran asks Senators to open federal courts to cameras

The Radio-Television News Directors Association President Barbara Cochran appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee Nov. 9 to ask lawmakers to enact legislation making it lawful for the electronic news media to cover federal criminal and civil court proceedings.

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee at the invitation of committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA), Cochran told the committee that all 50 states allow “some manner of audiovisual coverage of court proceedings,” but television and radio coverage from inside federal court proceedings is banned.

According to Cochran, her association believes that allowing electronic media coverage of federal judicial proceedings, ranging from federal district courts to the United States Supreme Court, “is the right thing to do as a matter of sound public policy.”

The association president didn’t give credence to the notion that video cameras and mics disrupt court proceedings. She told the committee that advances in technology over the past few decades have minimized the potential for disruptions. Additionally, requiring the news media to pool its coverage would “limit the equipment and personnel present in the courtroom.”

She said a pilot program allowing cameras in six federal district courts, and the Second and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals between 1991 and 1993 was success.

The RTNDA supports the Sunshine in the Courtroom Act, a bill that would give federal trial and appellate judges the discretion to permit cameras in their courtrooms on a three-year trial basis. The RTNDA also supports legislation recently introduced by Specter to allow television and radio coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court.

To read Cochran’s full testimony, visit www.rtnda.org/foi/cochran_testimony.pdf.

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