C-Span Chooses Not To Help Answer Questions

Published: Mon 10 Jun 2002 05:47 PM
Editor's note: An controversy is brewing over a decision by the public interest US news broadcaster C-Span's decision not to cover the Unanswered Questions press conference to be held today in Washington D.C, (7am Tuesday New Zealand Time).
For related Scoop coverage see the Scoop Special Feature Page on 911 -
Below are two items, first a publicly notified "Citizen's Alert" on the C-Span decision. Followed by a reader's response, a letter to C-Span complaining about the decision.
C-SPAN Denies Public TV Access To 9-11 Victims' Families
…From The Ultimate Bulletin Board…
C-SPAN denies public TV access to 9-11 victims' families and 9-11 panel seeking answers and accountability.
**A public plea to citizens interested in fair and balanced media coverage -- please forward as appropriate**
Since mid-May, organizers of the 9-11 and the Public Safety press event, June 10th, at the National Press Club (NPC) in Washington, D.C, have been campaigning for media coverage. This past week, co-chair, Tom Flocco has solicited C-SPAN for coverage hoping for a live TV broadcast, or at minimum a taped and delayed broadcast.
C-SPANs web site says: "Certain events, like speeches at the NPC and news conferences by Congressional leaders, automatically receive coverage." The site also details pre-conditions that an event must meet to be selected for coverage:
1) The event should be of a public affairs nature.
2) The subject should be an issue of national importance.
3) Event should be selected to show balance between different sides of a particular issue.
4) Speakers participating should be closely related to the topic under discussion.
Initial reaction was positive; "this is very interesting, something we want to consider" said Rob Harleston, Assignment Editor, a sentiment echoed by Karen Gaither, another assignment editor. They requested that we keep them updated on any new developments and confirmations.
Friday was D-Day. The editorial/camera shoot committee met Friday afternoon after a few last minute calls to Tom requesting updates as to panelists and other media coverage, still expressing enthusiasm. Tom and co-chair Kyle F. Hence expeditiously dispatched confirmation updates and a detailed minute by minute agenda and timeline of presentation -- clearly indicating that positive momentum and significant interest was building for the event.
We were particularly pleased that representatives from the group organizing the June 11th Rally on Capital Hill (Families of September 11th) were planning on attending our conference and offering their own questions to our 9/11 investigative panel.
We now felt the people and the press were eager to hear the unaddressed issues and unanswered questions to be raised at our Monday event. And we felt somewhat confident based on their expressed interest that they would at the very least tape the show for a later broadcast given our focus on key issues with regard to the pubic safety.
But we were wrong!
Tom called C-SPAN at 5:30 pm to inquire about their TV coverage decision. He learned they had decided NOT to cover Monday's Unanswered Questions press event. They have instead scheduled detailed coverage of Bush Administration officials (VP Cheney, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge) and others promoting President Bush's new plan to centralize major national and domestic security and border agencies under the auspices of one government official -- administration events all afternoon.
Tom offered this response to his contact Ms. Gaither. He said, "C-SPAN has fallen for the Administration's 'damage control' and their effort to keep the FBI whistleblowers and the real, unanswered questions totally off the radar screen." "We are standing by our decision to cover Bush Administration events," Ms. Gaithor said, adding "I could not persuade the other editors to cover your program."
C-SPAN's bias toward airing the Homeland Defense restructuring issue is part of an ongoing diversion and reticence to address gross government failures and negligence surrounding 9-11, without responding to the general public call for full accountability.
If you feel that the American people, and especially the family members who lost loved ones, deserve real answers, open investigations, and access to secret government documents; we are urging you to do the following:
1) Between 8AM and 2PM on Monday take a half hour to an hour to phone (most important), fax and email C-SPAN asking them why they are refusing any coverage or taping of such critically important subject matter. (If the phone is continually busy, that means others share your outrage and concern.)
2) Send an email and a fax if you have access to a fax machine. Please be courteous and concise in expressing your views.
C-SPAN's website says that their editorial staff strives for balance. Why are they ignoring a press event at the easily accessible and prestigious National Press Club -- one that will cover key questions and critical information thus far not addressed by our national leaders? These issues include air defense and airport security failures, profits from pre-attack insider trading, anthrax attacks, encroachment on guaranteed constitutional rights, and the withholding of secret document, etc.
C-SPAN is refusing any coverage or taping of the press event on these 9-11 issues even though two of the three C-SPAN channels became open with no required congressional programming since the House of Representatives is not even in session on Monday afternoon.
Please urge C-SPAN to reconsider their decision and send a team to videotape the conference to be sure that substantive 9/11 issues, new information important questions are fully addressed that help build a case for a full and independent investigation.
Main number: 202-737-3220
Assignment editor: 202-626-7965 (Rob Harleston)
Assignment editor: 202-626-7965 (Ellen Schweiger)
Fax number: 202-737-6226
Viewer services: 765-464-3080 (Rob Harleston, Assignment Editor) (Karen Gaither, Assignment Editor) (producers of Washington Journal, shown daily) (C-SPAN established venue to suggest a public event -
polling email address) (C-SPAN radio)
We are disappointed that C-SPAN has chosen not to cover unanswered questions, un-addressed issues, and hidden information pertinent to public safety and national security. However, we are hoping that the response of many Americans willing to phone, fax and email C-SPAN will convince them to reconsider their position and cover our event so many others will have the benefit of evaluating previously un-addressed issues.
The goal of our event is to raise glaringly obvious and disturbing questions that remain unanswered in the wake of 9/11. In its prejudiced decision not to cover this important event, C-SPAN is in effect taking our money (taxpayer cable-funded fees) and using it against us to deny public access to legitimate and credible inquiry regarding issues of paramount importance to the public safety and national security.
If we should fail in our attempt to have C -SPAN reconsider, we will call on concerned citizens and victim families to take the initiative to research civil procedure regarding C-SPAN‘s actions..."
[ 06-09-2002: Message edited by: peacey_nyc ]
From Indymedia D.C.
Letter to C-SPAN re Unanswered Questions
by Dwight Van Winkle
12:40am Mon Jun 10 '02
Below is my letter to C-SPAN asking them to broadcast the Unanswered Questions press conference, which will be held on June 10 from 2-5 PM at the National Press Club. C-SPAN reportedly considered then refused broadcast.
The story of C-SPAN's refusal to broadcast, as well as C-SPAN contacts, is available at
If you agree with me the Unanswered Questions press conference is worthwhile information for the public to consider, please e-mail, call and fax C-SPAN.
The two main points in my letter are:
(1) Why won't C-SPAN broadcast a press conference with lawyers and family members of 9/11 victims who are suing an airline, yet on June 7 it broadcast a panel discussion called "Flying While Brown," with the only panel members being lawyers and a potential plaintiff in a suit aganst an airline?
(2) Why is C-SPAN instead broadcasting Bush officials promoting the Department of Homeland Security, when Unanswered Questions press conference might provide Congress and the American people with valuable information for considering the Department of Homeland Security and other Bush initiatives with troubling implications for civil liberties?
My letter follows.
Mr. Rob Harleston
Assignment Editor, C-SPAN
Ms. Karen Gaither
Assignment Editor, C-SPAN
Ms. Ellen Schweiger
Assignment Editor, C-SPAN
Via facsimile to (202) 737-6226
Dear Mr. Harleston, Ms. Gaiter, and Ms. Schweiger:
Please broadcast the Unanswered Questions press event on June 10, 2-5 PM at the National Press Club. I have heard that you considered, then rejected, broadcast of this event, which is described at
I want to know what these people have to say, particularly the families of 9/11 victims and their lawyers. Shouldn't these people have a small proportion of the chance to speak to the American people that the President and his advisors get everyday, even when it has become obvious that some of what they say is to cover their own malfeasance?
As discussed below, I am troubled by what appears to be a lack of consistency, in that you aired the "Flying While Brown" panel discussion on June 7, which is quite similar to the Unanswered Questions press conference in that it involves plaintiffs and their lawyers suing an airline.
I am also troubled that information presented at this event may provide valuable information to the American people and Congress as they consider the proposed Department of Homeland Security, yet you are instead providing airtime to Bush Administration officials to further push their agenda.
My understanding is that you have four criteria which you consider in selecting events for broadcast: 1) The event should be of a public affairs nature; 2) The subject should be an issue of national importance; 3) Event should be selected to show balance between different sides of a particular issue; 4) Speakers participating should be closely related to the topic under discussion.
I think the Unanswered Questions press conference clearly meets criteria 1,2, and 4, and that C-SPAN must be using criteria 3), balance, to justify its decision not to broadcast the Unanswered Questions press conference.
I understand your criteria of "balance," but balance extends across the events you cover, and not just to judge the views expressed at an event. "Balance" should not be used as an excuse to silence those who question the Bush Administration, when the Bush Administration has so many opportunities to state its position. In fact, it appears that you will instead air Bush officials discussing the proposed Department of Homeland Security. This is particularly ironic in that information presented at the Unanswered Questions press conference may provide valuable input to the debate on homeland security, and might even place into question the need for reorganization as well as other new laws and policies that affect civil liberties.
In this context, your failure to air events such as Unanswered Questions could be perceived as reflecting an extreme lack of balance.
I also question whether C-SPAN consistently applies its criteria on balance. On June 7, you broadcast an event that cannot be called balanced: the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee's panel discussion "Flying While Brown." This event is on the Internet at:
First, I applaud you airing this "Flying While Brown" event. I am against racial profiling, and believe the plaintiffs have a strong case for compensation. Moreover, I think the plaintiffs and their lawyers are performing a public service by discussing their lawsuit publicly, and C-Span is performing a public service by giving these plaintiffs a forum.
However, the panel cannot be called balanced on this issue. It was moderated by the legal advisor for the Anti-Discrimination Committee, Kareem Shora [sic]. The panelists were: (1) a civil rights attorney representing Arab-American and other plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging passenger discrimination; and (2) Ms. Lopez's client, Mohammed Ali, a Pakistani citizen and U.S. resident who states he was subject to passenger discrimination.
There was no one on the "Flying While Brown" panel representing the airlines, pilots and flight attendants, or airline passengers who might provide a different view. I personally know a flight attendant that does not want to fly with Arab-looking people. I think she is wrong, and that profiling is unconstitutional and does not enhance security, but I do not think she is immoral or completely irrational to feel this way. This view would fairly be part of a "balanced" panel, if that was an absolute criteria for C-Span covering an event.
Therefore, it is fair to say that the "Flying While Brown" does not meet your standard for balance, yet it was still broadcast.
Why then is the Unanswered Questions event, an event focusing also focusing on plaintiffs and their attorneys in a lawsuit against an airline. Here, the victims are dead, and the plaintiffs are grieving families of the 9/11victims.
I wonder if you are more concerned about the other guests, who are either relatives of 9/11 victims that are against the war in Afghanistan, or will speak about insider trading and CIA interference in the visa process at the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
However, these are certainly topics of great public concern and national importance.
Please show courage at this crucial time in our nation's history. At least show the same respect to the families of 9/11 victims that you showed to people discriminated against after 9/11.
If you choose not to broadcast this event, please publicly explain why on your website. Frankly, I think C-SPAN's credibility is at stake. Thank you.
Dwight Van Winkle
The Scoop Editor
Scoop Independent News
Scoop is NZ's largest independent news source; respected widely in media, political, business and academic circles for being the place on the internet for publishing "what was really said", and for the quality of its analysis of issues.

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