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Secret Service spreads wide "no-fly" zones over conventions

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    NMU         CALIFORNIA         Broadcasting         Aug 3, 2000    

Secret Service spreads wide “no-fly” zones over conventions

  • The 1.5-mile bubbles imposed around airspace at the political conventions raises concerns about the First Amendment right of access to places by the press.

News media will not be able to provide aerial views of the Democratic National Convention, which starts August 14 in Los Angeles, or any protests surrounding it.

A federal law that states that no person may operate an aircraft over the vicinity of any area to be visited or traveled by the President, Vice President, or other public figures, is being used by the Secret Service to extend a bubble with a 1.5-mile radius around the convention site. A similar restriction was in place from August 2 to August 3 during the Republican convention in Philadelphia, while the party’s presidential and vice-presidential candidates were in attendance.

Television station KTLA-TV has rented roof space on a building across from the entrance of the Staples Center to ensure they provide some large frame coverage. “But if anything happens on the other side of the building, we’re S.O.L.,” news director Jeff Wald said.

Similar regulations that impose temporary flight restrictions of air space above an accident or disaster to facilitate rescue and cleanup efforts provide an exception to media aircraft. The code relating to the President provides no such exception.

Initially, the Los Angeles Police Department was offering to allow a news helicopter with a pool camera operator to fly within the airspace, but the plan was abandoned when media complained about the control police would have over the videotaping.

Air space restrictions surrounding the White House and the Naval Observatory, on whose grounds the Vice President resides, are limited to a few blocks around each building.

Helicopter pilot Robert Tur of the Los Angeles News Service is outraged by the media’s lack of action against the code. Tur said that unless broadcasters and members of the media get together to fight the no-fly zone rule, their access to places will be whittled down until there’s nothing but yellow tape and officials telling them what they can and can’t cover.

Tur was also angered that the media did not get behind protesters who challenged a 185-acre “secure zone” surrounding the Staples Center that was intended to prevent protesters from inhibiting the convention. On July 20, U.S. District Judge Gary Fees ruled that the zone was unconstitutional because it burdened more speech than is necessary.

(14 CFR 91.141; Service Employee International Union, Local 660 v. City of Los Angeles) MT

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