United States. Congress. House. Committee on Forei.

Impact of television on U.S. foreign policy : hearing before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, April 26, 1994 online

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know. But I know a similar situation where a charge was made
against a very prominent political figure, and that is ignored, rel-
atively ignored. I think that is about the third charge. If that had
been made of Richard Nixon, the hated Nixon, or the hated
Reagan, why, Larry King Live would have had many, many pro-
grams questioning and analyzing, and we would have seen that —
we would have seen a fiesta of media coverage. But because the
people involved are different and because, as Mickey Kaus has said
in the New Republic, this is the best President we have had in a
long time, we want to protect him, that is going on. And to deny
it is to deceive yourself, because we all know, everyone in the coun-
try knows it.

So I think that power without responsibility can be very dan-
gerous, and it can do the opposite of what you want it to do or
what you pretend you are doing, namely, inform the public in an
unbiased way. I think you have to be careful of sanctimony.



Now, that said, two more things. I do not think freedom and jus-
tice and democracy has ever been served better than by the tele-
vision coverage of Beijing. I do not think anybody will ever forget
the work CNN did, and others did, seeing that young man stand
in front of that tank. The forces of democracy were crushed, but
temporarily. China and the world will never be the same as a re-
sult of that fantastic coverage. And that, as I say, deserves the
highest praise.

On the other hand, I am not convinced, as a World War II vet-
eran, one of the dwindling few, that Hitler would not still be alive
in his dotage today if we had the cameras covering the landing at
Normandy and some of the other places. I have no answer to that.
I am not complaining. That is the reality, and that is what went

But the emotional buttons that are pushed by seeing people
killed and maimed are very powerful, and I think history would
have gone in an entirely different direction had we had the cov-
erage that the media today would want of that kind of landing.
And, again, I am not being critical. I am just saying that is the
power of the images you are able to generate. And I just think you
have to be so mindful that you have this power, and how it is used.


Lastly, just put a plug in for McNeil/Lehrer as against even
Nightline, although Nightline is very good. But you need time to
develop some of these ideas. They are not quick one-liners. And yet
because of the constraints of time, when you go to this guy and tnis
guy, and you better be interesting and you better be colorful, that
does not help the public as much as sitting there boring, I will
grant you, but sitting there and developing some of these ideas
with a more intelligent and less energetic give and take, and
McNeil tries to do that.

Crossfire, God love you, it is entertaining, but the moderators are
intervening at every — I try to see if they let anybody ever finish a
sentence, and pretty tough, but it is fun, and maybe that is what
it is for.

Mr. Turner. You do very well on there, Mr. Hyde.

Mr. Hyde. Pardon?

Mr. Turner. You do very well on there.

Mr. Hyde. Well, I am tapering off, I can assure you. But anyway,
those are just some of my thoughts, and I think it is great for you
to come up here and share your views with us. But you are at the
throttles of power like none that has — stronger than the atomic
bomb, because you can move nations and civilizations by the im-
ages that you choose to portray.

issue OF credibility

Mr. Turner. I think, Mr. Hyde, you are right on the money on
the issue of credibility. That is all tne news organization truly has
to carry it through good times and bad is credibility. And once lost
it is almost impossible to retrieve, and it takes years to acquire it.
And we know that it goes at risk every day, and that is why in my


statement, and Ted in his, emphasized the responsibiHty that goes
with all of this. It is not — it is not taken lightly. I would not want
members of the committee to think that in a very offhanded fash-
ion or with a flip of the coin that we decide coverage at our organi-
zation, and I know the same thing is true at ABC, CBS, NBC and
PBS, that we carefully consider, and the internal debates are often
more fierce than we will get from the public. You can imagine what
we heard at CNN during the Gulf war with Peter Arnett in Bagh-

I had a call one day from Southern Bell that told me that we had
managed to back up the phone calls in their system to three states
away, and what in the world was I going to do about it. And I said
beats me. If we had listened to the outcry from the public, we
would not have been in Baghdad. And sometimes you take the un-
popular stance because you think it is the right thing to do.

But nothing is done in a cavalier or impromptu fashion, and you
are just absolutely right. Integrity, credibility, that is the whole
reason for doing it. Otherwise, go into something else. If you cannot
be honest, if you cannot be honest in what you are doing every day,
why do that: Why lie? Go into the propaganda business. Become
a proselytizer, but not in the news business.


Mr. Beschloss. I think another part of this is, Mr. Hyde, that
excellent reference to the difficulties that modern Presidents have
in fighting wars. One of the things that we heard in the run-up to
the Persian Gulf war was that in the wake of Lyndon Johnson and
Richard Nixon's loss of support for the Vietnam war and the degree
to which that was affected by nightly television coverage of what
was going on in Southeast Asia, any modern President would have
a difficult time, for instance, carrying out the U.N. goals in the Per-
sian Gulf.

The reason why George Bush was able to generate such a sur-
prising amount of support for that action in Kuwait, both before
the war began and throughout those 6 weeks, I think, was an ex-
traordinary and rather impressive display of Presidential leader-
ship. This was a President who recognized that in the wake of Viet-
nam there are certain difficulties that are incumbent on a Presi-
dent as he tries to do something like this. He dealt with it, and I
think achieved something that many of us during the months be-
fore that war began would have felt would have been very diffiicult.


So what this suggests is that we are in a period of transition. As
you have got more and more coverage of foreign affairs, the politi-
cal leadership begins to develop a capacity to make sure that these
issues are framed well and that support is gained for those policies.
It is lot tougher now than it was 40 years ago for someone who is
a political leader dealing with foreign policy. Forty years ago, it
was a lot tougher than it was a half century before then. In the
1920's and the 1930's, you began to have a lot of international
news coming into the print media soon after the event occurred.
That was something that would not have happened in the mid- 19th
century. An American President would have had a much easier


time, say, in 1850 selling his view of an international event than
a President might have in 1925. So my point would be that this
is a continuing process.

Chairman Hamilton. Mr. Rohrabacher.


Mr. Rohrabacher. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I am a former journalist myself, and in fact when I

Chairman HAMILTON. Pull the microphone up.

Mr. Rohrabacher. And when I first ran for office, I guess that
did not play against me. In fact, my constituents rather liked the
fact that I was not a lawyer. That was my motto, you know, at
least he is not a lawyer. You know, vote for Dana. But anyway, to
the subject at hand.

Mr. Manzullo. You flunked out. [Laughter.]

Mr. Rohrabacher. The first question I guess we have to ask is,
is TV coverage of this hearing going to affect our discussion on the
effect of TV coverage on policy. I mean, I have listened to your dis-
cussion the other night on the Whitewater coverage, and it seems
to me that we have reached a point in America that we are so self-
introspective that we just have to think about thinking about it,
about thinking about it, and perhaps we should just get on with
being free citizens and leaders in our own arena.

I do not agree with you, Mr. Koppel, that all these things are
going to be settled by leadership and by people who can come for-
ward. I mean, I would hope American leaders are a cut above lead-
ers in different parts of the world. But the fact is a free society de-
pends on everybody working together, and that does not mean we
cannot disagree and disagree really fervently, because that is part
of a free society, but we all have a part to play in a free society.

For example, I worked for Ronald Reagan. I was one of Ronald
Reagan's speech writers. He knew how to use the media to create
public opinion to bolster support. But I think that being a former
journalist, I think journalists have to be patriotic as well. I mean,
I think that you really have to determine what effect your report-
ing is going to have, not only just on lives, but what effect it is
going to have on the future of our free society, of the United States
of America.


I remember we had an event, and it was really tragic. It was the
fellow that — and I believe this was Grenada — and he had lived —
it was the first anniversary of the invasion of Grenada, and there
was a fellow that had lived right up until, he had been wounded
in Grenada and he had lived almost to the first anniversary, and
his father was there with him when he died just like a week ahead
of time. And I was working with the President on these remarks,
and it was a very touching story about how the man talked to his
son, and as he was dying in front of him, and he said, well, was
it worth it? And the son looked up and said, yes, it was; you know,
it was worth it. It was worth my life to do this for my country.

And we have had the event. The President honored the father.
The father was there and talked about how the courage of the par-


ents and the families, but also how important this was to all of the
people who gave their lives in Grenada.

And then after the event in the news coverage, I will never forget
this, and I will not repeat what station it was or what reporter it
was, he said, "well, of course, the President did not explain that
this man was the victim of friendly fire." This man was a hero. You
know, he was a hero, what he had done.

One of the things our people do when they go to Desert Storm
and they go to Grenada, the fact is they know they might be killed
by Desert fire — or friendly fire. That is one of the reasons they are

I was really devastated after that, because I felt the person who
did that report was intentionally just sort of downplaying this
man's heroism, this American's heroism. And I cannot help but feel
that in the long term that is going to have an affect on our society,
where people say, "well, it is all, you know, what can we believe
in anyway."

And when I say we all have a part, it is not just the news media,
it is not just the leaders, but it is also the people of our country.
And if the people of our country are being led to believe there is
nothing worth fighting for, or every time you do make a stand, you
know, it is something negative is involved like, "he was killed by
friendly fire" instead of standing up to the enemy, I think it has
its impact.

So I guess I am asking about long-term impacts of what your job
is rather than simply looking at it just in getting the most informa-
tion out the quickest.

Mr. KOPPEL. Well, I cannot speak directly to the case that you
cite, Congressman. But I am familiar with some of the conditions
that caused Americans to die under friendly fire, and those condi-
tions involved, among other things, an unwillingness to share tech-
nology among the various services. You had people using radios on
frequencies that were not tied in with the frequencies of other
units that were also attacking Grenada at the time.

And I would argue with you that I think it is the highest form
of patriotism, even though it may seem unpleasant at the time, to
raise issues like that when they happen, to put them into their
proper context so that they do not happen again in the future.

Mr. RoHRABACHER. Mr. Koppel, I totally agree with what you
just said. I am a former journalist. I believe in freedom of the
press. I think that is exactly the role the press should play. In this
case that is not what I am talking about. In this case we had a
situation where the President of the United States was trying to
inspire the American people, and the media intentionally gave a
cynical twist on it in order to prevent the President from basically
uplifting the American people.


Mr. Koppel. Well, let me just pick up because Congressman
Hyde said that we have a tendency toward sanctimony, and I think
he is exactly right. But there is also a tendency, I think, on the
part of our critics to use that sweeping term "media."



Mr. KOPPEL. I do not presume to instruct any of you, who un-
doubtedly know a great deal more about the Constitution than I do.
But one of the fascinating things about the First Amendment is
that it allows any one of us in this country, without licensing, with-
out having taken a test, without meeting any set of criteria, to be
a journalist. And inevitably that means that we have a hell of a
lot of bad journalists, a few mediocre journalists, a lot of good jour-
nalists, and some outstanding journalists. And to the degree that
you are going to come after us as a group, it is awfully tough to
defend the profession. To the degree that you want to come after
me individually, go right ahead and do it.

Mr. RoHRABACHER. That is very fair. And I will just say, in
terms of your show, I appreciate Nightline. I appreciate — I think
that we would be better served if, rather than just more informa-
tion and the press trying to give it to us as here is a fair analysis,
there would be more discussion back and forth between people who
have honest disagreements, as you try to bring out on your pro-
gram, and I think that might serve the public a little bit better if
we get in more depth, and I think that is what Henry was talking
about with McNeil/Lehrer.

Thank you very much.


Chairman Hamilton. Mr. Manzullo.

Mr. Manzullo. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I really have more of a comment than a question. Mr. Koppel,
your show is unique because if you need more time to bring out the
truth, you just say we are going to run over a few minutes.

Mr. Koppel. Not if our affiliates have anything to do with it.

Mr. Manzullo. Well, that is refreshing, because many times it
will be in the middle of a show, and all of a sudden, oops, that is
it. Along comes some advertisement. But you simply say hang on,
we will be right back, and the person is allowed to not only fully
develop, but conclude a thought. That is rare.

Three or four observations. You know, journalism has undergone
a tremendous change, and sometimes it comes back and forth and
ends up where it started. The newspaper clippings that Lincoln
had in his billfold the night that he was killed were only favorable
clippings because back in those days the press just went hog wild
in the criticism. And we have gone from the television era of Cross-
roads, Father Knows Best, Ed Sullivan, and perhaps Bob Newhart,
to a situation such as what happened in Chicago a few months ago.
A community of pastors in the inner city got together and literally
boycotted a television station during the Neilson ratings because
the television station, they said, placed too much of an emphasis
on crime in the area where those churches were located. As a re-
sult of the emphasis on crime, volunteerism was down heavily
among the parishioners. And because volunteerism declined, crime
was beginning to increase in the area where the TV station had
been doing its news.

I am not saying it is a matter of fault on the part of the TV sta-
tion, but these 100 inner city pastors were simply saying that, in


their opinion, there was an overemphasis upon truth, as it were,
that led to some dramatic consequences.

I have no answer to the comments I have given. If you have a
comment on that, I would appreciate it.


Mr. KOPPEL. I think the only defense that any American citizen
has against bad journalism is good journalism. The only restraints
that are placed upon us in large measure — those of us in broadcast-
ing have somewhat different restraints, obviously, because we are
licensed — ^but the only restraints that I think should be placed
upon the practice of journalism in this country is that other jour-
nalists should not be afraid of criticizing us when we do something
wrong. I think we have a moral obligation to correct the record.

If I may. Congressman, I just come back to the allusion you
made to another story having to do with a sexual scandal, and you
were delicate enough not to name the politician, so I will not, ei-
ther. But let me point out that similar charges were also made
against a politician of your party who held the same high office,
and to a large extent those stories did not run in the mainstream
media precisely because we had done our job. We checked into it,
and we were unable to find any confirmation of that.

It is very difficult, just as it is difficult for people in the intel-
ligence business ever to get credit for what they do because their
successes never make the news, when we do not run stories be-
cause we have done our homework, because we have done the re-
search and because we do not feel that what we have found war-
rants putting it into a newspaper or a magazine or on the air, you
never know about it, but that is when we are doing the job prop-


Mr. Turner. I have been doing this for 40-some years, and come
to the conclusion that the viewer, the audience, the reader, the
consumer of this news, is a pretty smart, tough bird — sophisticated,
resilient, and can see through the canard and the nonsense pretty
well. I have a lot of confidence in the American viewer. Now I am
learning something more about viewers worldwide, and they are
not terribly different, I am happy to say.

Journalists are a difficult lot, rambunctious and independent.
Fortunately, in this country we do not have a monolith. There is
not a state-owned anything that tells us what to do and say. And
so you have the good with the bad with freedom. And I think most
of us would settle for freedom rather than something controlled by
an all-knowing state. And it has its problems with it, and Lord
knows it is imperfect.


Chairman Hamilton. Mr. Leach.

Mr. Leach. Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I am struck by this discussion on the impact of TV in U.S. for-
eign policy, about whether this is a worrisome problem or one that
we ought to be celebrating. I mean, if the basis of the issue is


whether too much knowledge is better than too Httle, then it
strikes me as self-evident that television brings more knowledge,
and therefore is more a positive than a negative.

But I think it is very interesting when you talk about pressure
television places on Members of the U.S. Congress. The single
greatest mistake this Congress has made in the post-World War II
era is one related to an incident that television did not report, and
that was the Gulf of Tonkin incident — an incident that may not
have occurred, and if it occurred, it was a wooden boat attacking
the U.S. Navy. Based upon that we gave license to an executive
branch of unprecedented breadth. Possibly if there had been a TV
crew on the ship that was attacked, we might not have reacted in
quite the same way. And I only raise that for perspective.

Then we have — I mean, if we look at the history of the last cou-
ple of centuries, I mean the great conference, the Congress of Vi-
enna in 1815 where Lord Castlereagh of Great Britain committed
a country to go to war without anyone in Great Britain knowing
about it, without the leadership knowing about it, without instruc-
tions. And luckily for Lord Castlereagh his bluff was — well, it
worked. But it might not have.


The only other thing I would say is that it is impressive to me
where we have come. And I have two questions in this regard. One
is: It has struck me that television has obviously made a great im-
pact on U.S. attitudes and in terms of news and development, but
particularly with you, Mr. Turner, I think it is even more impres-
sive how we have been brought together, and it is making an im-
pact on foreign policy.

I wonder if you have, from your perspective of your international
network, any assessments on how the foreign policy of foreign
states may be affected by what, in effect, is a medium and also a
journalistic capacity that is leading the world, and I stress both;
not simply the technology, which is very easily transferred — in fact
you use often Japanese cameras — but the individuals and people of
journalistic stature that I think our country is easily at the fore-
front. Is that having an affect on the foreign policy of other coun-
tries, and, therefore, implicitly, the foreign policy of the United

Mr. Turner. I will tell you what I know, and the evidence is an-
ecdotal; that we are told regularly that as heads of state talk to one
another around the globe on various issues, that they frequently
use CNN as the common agenda setter because their aids and their
ministers — they may not see it, but their chiefs of staff can and we
are told do watch, and therefore they have a common language, a
common event, incident, an expression that has been broadcast on
14 satellites instantly around the world. And we are told of this
over and over again, so I have to assume that it is true. But, again,
it is interesting. And after you have said that to yourself, you go
on about your business. You will report the news as you think it
is interesting or important or significant.



As we march on down chasing technology, mankind always
chases technology, and we develop more channels because of the
ability to split them up and compress, you will see a greater spe-
cialization so that we will have just — referring to my own com-
pany — an Asian channel, a European channel, Indian, Latin Amer-
ica, which we do now, probably some kind of Russian; all in part-
nership with other countries. The lingua franca of the world today
is, of course, English in all manner of things, from finance to poli-
tics to literature, and English will continue to dominate as the com-
mon denominator. But you are going to have with future news or-
ganizations, ours included, and I am sure my friend here at ABC,
is aggressively interested in pursuing international news networks,
many more of them to come, and not very far from now.

And it will not be just the United States, of course. The Japa-
nese, the Germans, the Italians are all seriously looking at con-
glomerates out of Latin America, are willing to invest heavily in
the creation of these kind of regional or global services. The un-
known is, of course, how much viewing there will be and will there
be an advertising community to support it, because we are in the
business of making money. I say that proudly.


Mr. Leach. Well, let me just conclude with one other observa-
tion. It strikes me, we have always in political science terms talked
about the kind of pendulum swings in, particularly in foreign pol-
icy, between branches of government, the executive and legislature.
Sometimes the legislature is more powerful. Other times the execu-
tive seems to hold greater sway. But to the degree the media has
become considered the fourth branch of government, it is impres-
sive to me that it is playing a greater role. It is also impressive to
me, when you get right down to it, that in this country we are at
the forefront of the world in many different areas, but it is not
clear that in political leadership we have been as strong in contrast

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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on ForeiImpact of television on U.S. foreign policy : hearing before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, April 26, 1994 → online text (page 3 of 8)