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High court allows release of Bush-Gore hearing tapes

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    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Broadcasting         Dec 4, 2000    

High court allows release of Bush-Gore hearing tapes

  • The tape-delayed broadcast of the arguments in the Bush-Gore case gives the public a glimpse of the legal battle for the presidency.

For the first time in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court, the arguments before the justices were broadcast, albeit tape-delayed, to public on the same day.

The events of Dec. 1 marked a milestone in the attempts to gain greater access to the nation’s highest court. The Court released an audio tape of the oral arguments in the appeal by Gov. George W. Bush of the Florida Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the constitutionality of an extended deadline to complete manual counts of ballots in three counties.

Fifteen minutes after the 90-minute hearing ended, ABC, the media pool provider for December, ran the recording in its entirety to all the other media outlets.

“Usually the tapes aren’t available until the end of the session around July. This is a break- through for the media,” Charles Bierbaur, the CNN Supreme Court correspondent, said of the actions of the Supreme Court press office.

Without live coverage, media outlets such as C-SPAN, CNN and MSNBC improvised by airing the audio along with images of the speakers and a running closed-caption text of the hearing. CNN provided viewers with brief biographies of the attorneys and nine justices.

Earlier in the week, Floyd Abrams filed a petition on behalf of CNN asking the Court to allow camera access. Chief Justice William Rehnquist denied cameras access, but in a Nov. 29 letter to the Radio-Television News Directors Association, the chief justice said that an audio tape would be made available shortly after the drop of the gavel.

Barbara Cochran, president of the RTNDA, said, “Although we would have preferred live television and radio coverage of these historic arguments, the Court’s decision to release an audiotape immediately after the proceedings is a great first step for electronic journalism, and, most important, for the public. It’s also a major step forward for this Court, which has been so adamant about not permitting radio and television coverage of its proceedings.”

(Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board) TH

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