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Police withdraw plan for controlled access to convention "no-fly" zone

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    NMU         CALIFORNIA         Broadcasting         Aug 3, 2000    

Police withdraw plan for controlled access to convention “no-fly” zone

  • Ethical questions raised about a Los Angeles Police Department plan to allow videotaping from inside a no-fly zone around Democratic National Convention led police to withdraw the plan.

The Los Angeles Police Department withdrew a proposal to operate a media helicopter which would provide local TV stations footage from within a 1.5 mile-radius “no-fly” zone over the Staples Center, the site of the upcoming Democratic National Convention.

The plan, announced to broadcasters June 28, prompted much discussion between broadcasters and police officials about the relationship between press and police. Dissenters feared local television would be used as a branch of the LAPD’s surveillance unit, while those who agreed with the arrangement believed it was the only way to transmit aerial images to the public from the federally imposed restricted zone, created to ensure the president’s safety.

“We don’t have much choice,” KTLA-TV New Director Jeff Wald told the Los Angeles Times, who had accepted the deal. “That’s the heart of the city. If anything happens, there is no way for us to get the pictures unless we are lucky enough to have a camera in the right place.”

Numerous protests are expected to take place outside the convention, and confrontations between police and protesters can often only be recorded from the air.

Los Angeles Times executive editor Leo Wolinsky saw the proposal as an attempt by police to control the what the public has access to. “Our job is to bring news to the people and we want to do that ourselves,” the Los Angeles Times reported he said. “What we don’t want to do is publish photos that, in effect, have been censored by police.”

Wald countered by stating that the only reason KTLA-TV would go along with the plan is that police had agreed not to censor any footage or turn off cameras, even if the images portrayed police in a bad light.

LAPD Police Commander David Kalish disagreed with the idea that the police would not have control over the taping. Footage in a “tactical situation that put our officers at risk” would not have been shot, the Times reported Kalish as saying.

CBS Los Angeles Bureau Chief Jennifer Siebens told the Times that CBS will have to get by without aerial footage. “We felt it crossed a line where news media would be serving law enforcement,” Siebens said.

Many members of the Radio and Television News Association were willing to accept the deal when the LAPD proposed it to members, after the department’s surveillance helicopter broke down. The deal would have allowed a helicopter leased by KMEX-TV into the no-fly zone under the condition that it was piloted by police who would also determine what would be videotaped, the Los Angeles Times reported.


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© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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