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10.25.2004
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Barton wants to investigate newsroom operations

Texas Republican Joe Barton, chairman of the House Commerce Committee, has told a group of broadcasters that he plans to examine the newsroom operations of all the networks after the Nov. 2 election.

In a recent meeting of the Maximum Service Television Association, he said the accuracy and fairness of news broadcasts is a legitimate topic for his committee to investigate, Reuters reported.

The controversy surrounding the memos that CBS News used in its examination of Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard heightened lawmakers’ concerns over newsroom operations, Barton said. While Barton rejected the idea of requiring a news operation to have an ombudsman, he said he was concerned about safeguards that prevent inaccurate reports from coming out.

Barton said it concerned him that news anchors like Rather also are the news directors of their organizations. The lawmaker said he wanted to hear from execs of all the networks — not just CBS — and threatened to introduce legislation requiring TV news operations to impose safeguards against partisan bias seeping into reports. He backed off the threat of legislation when pressed for specifics.

Barton also implied that TV news is less reliable than the print media, adding that with reality TV such a force in the entertainment world in recent years, many TV news personalities did not begin their careers as “real journalists” working for newspapers and other print media.

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