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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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and years ahead, I would recommend that you focus on the new
technology.

In one tyranny after another, it was the presence of small carn-
eras — Solidarity, for example, had a place next to a church in
Gdansk where they made copies of videotapes, literally hundreds
and thousands of copies of videotapes of a news magazine that Soli-
darity had put together, and it would be passed from hand to hand
inside Poland; enormously influential.

Mr. Rohrabacher. That does impact inside Poland. It does not
impact what we see in the United States.

For example, what we have been heralded today several times is
the coverage CNN had on Tiananmen Square. Well, why were
those cameras there originally? I mean, I — I seem to remember it



33

was Gorbachev's visit, and, frankly, I think Grorbachev was hyped
by the media beyond — ^he was not the reformer that the media por-
trayed him to be, I beheve, and we could discuss that for hours.
But the fact is the media would not even have been there if it was
not some sort of a publicity stunt by the Chinese and the Russians.
And if the media would not have been there for that visit, you
would not have had t*iat media coverage. And the public might not
have had this view.

Instead, they might have been over in Israel, for example, and
watching the Israeli, and the Israelis have some problems, but they
are much — a much freer society than the Chinese. They are cer-
tainly a much freer society than the Syrians who murder people
without the media ever being able to cover it. This really has a
major impact on the way we make our decisions, and it ends up
that the dictatorship gets the better half of it.

Mr. KOPPEL. Actually, Congressman, let me quibble with your
history here.

Mr. ROHRABACHER. OK.

Mr. KoppEL. The initial demonstrations began because of the
death of Hu Yaobang, and the only reason that the Chinese did not
crack down any sooner than they did, and that was in fact what
enabled us to have the kind of coverage that you saw, was because
of the impending arrival of Gorbachev.

Mr. ROHRABACHER. Right.

Mr. KopPEL. And there was considerable embarrassment within
the Chinese Government to crack down at a time when the Soviet
leader was visiting. So it was sort of a combination of factors that
happened at the time.

Chairman Hamilton. Gentlemen, we are very much aware you
have very heavy responsibilities, and we appreciate your coming
this morning. We have had a good, stimulating discussion. You
have given us some real insights, and we thank you for that.

We stand adjourned.

[Whereupon, at 11:52 a.m., the committee was adjourned.]



APPENDIX



WITNESS BIOGRAPHIES



MICHAEL R. BESCHLOSS



Michael R. Beschloss, Senior Fellow and Director of the Annenberg Washington
Program's Project on Television and U.S. Foreign Policy, is an award-winning historian and the
author of Tfie Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev, 1960-1963 (Harper Collins, 1991). His
other books include At the Highest Levels: The Inside Story of the End of the Cold War, with
Strobe Talbott (Little, Brown and Company, 1993), Kennedy and Roosevelt: Vie Uneasy
Alliance (W.W. Norton & Company, 1980), and Mayday: Eisenhower, Khrushchev and the U-2
Affair (Harper & Row, 1986). Beschloss serves as a board member of Foreign Affairs. He has
held appointments in history at Oxford, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Harvard Russian
Research Center. He has also served as a director of the Harry S. Trumein Centennial
Commission and the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. An alumnus of Williams and Harvard.
Beschloss has served as a CNN analyst during the Bush-Gorbachev summits, the August 1991
failed Soviet coup, and the Clinton inauguration.



TED KOPPEL



Ted Koppel, who as been with ABC news for 30 years, was named anchorman of ABC
News "Nightline" when the broadcast was introduced in March, 1980. In his anchor role. Mr.
Koppel is the principal on-air reporter and interviewer for television's first late-night network
news program. Mr. Koppel is also Editorial Manager of "Nightline."

Each weekday evening, from 11:35 p.m. to 12:05 a.m., "Nightline" provides in-depth
reporting on one or more of the major stories in the news through a combination of live
interviews with newsmakers and focus reports from "Nightline" correspondents in the field.
Called "... the standout show in all of network news" by the Baltimore Sun and "the most
indispensable news broadcast on television" by Time magazine, the program has been acclaimed
as one of the finest innovations in television news. Its success is due in large part to the
exemplary Ted Koppel, who has established a reputation among viewers, critics and his peers
as a journalist par excellence. "'Nightline' has grown so powerful that it's assumed that anv
top-shelf newsmaker will do Ted first," wrote the Dallas Morning News .

Ted Koppel has been cited by The Wall Street Journal as "the pre-eminent TV

(35)



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interviewer in America, while The Los Angeles Times refers to Koppel as "the undisputed
reigning lion of tough TV interview journalism." "The soleanchor of 'Nightline,' Ted Koppel,"
wrote The New York Times , "has gained a reputation for being the best news interviewer on
television. The Boston Globe wrote: "Years from now, TV newsmen are likely to invoke the
name of Ted Koppel the way they now speak about the good old days of Edward R. Murrow."

Mr. Koppel is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards and honors including five
George Foster Peabody Awards, eight duPont-Columbia Awards, seven Overseas Press Club
Awards, 21 Emmys, two George Polk Awards, two Ohio State Awards and two Sigma Delta
Chi Awards — the highest honor bestowed for public service by the Society of Professional
Journalists, among other accolades. Mr. Koppel was honored with the first Gold Baton in the
history of the duPont-Columbia Awards for "Nightline's" March, 1985, week-long series
originating from South Africa. Mr. Koppel and "Nightline" were cited for "the most
extraordinary television of the year."

Mr. Kopf)el was named the first recipient of the Sol Taishoff Award presented by
Broadcasting. He was voted best interviewer on radio or TV by the Washington Journalism
Review in 1987, and was named Broadcaster of the Year by the International Television and
Radio Society. He has received 14 honorary degrees from Syracuse University, Colgate
University, The University of South Carolina, American University, New England School of
Law, Fairfield University, Middlebury College, Georgetown School of Law, Dartmouth College,
Knox College, Howard University, Duke University, Saint Louis University, and the University
of Pennsylvania.

Before his "Nightline" assignment, Mr. Koppel worked as an anchor, foreign and
domestic correspondent and Bureau Chief.

From 1971 to 1980, he was ABC News' Chief Diplomatic Correspondent, and for a two-
year period beginning in 1975, he anchored "The ABC Saturday Night News."

His diplomatic assignment included coverage of former Secretary of State Henry
Kissinger, a tour of duty that took Mr. Koppel more than a quarter of a million miles during the
days of Kissinger's "shuttle diplomacy."

During the time he was on the State Department beat, Mr. Koppel co-wrote the best-
seller, "In the National Interest," with his friend and colleague, Marvin Kalb, formerly of CBS
News.

Before being named Diplomatic Correspondent, Mr. Koppel was ABC News Hong Kong
Bureau Chief from 1969-1971. In this position, he traveled hundreds of thousands of miles to
cover stories from Vietnam to Australia.

In 1968, he become Miami Bureau Chief for ABC News, where his assignments included
covering Latin America.

On the political beat, he has had a major reporting role in every presidential nominating



37

convention ~ a total of 16 - since 1964. He co-anchored ABC News' coverage of the 1980
Democratic and Republican National Conventions and ABC election night coverage.

Mr. Koppel joined ABC News, New York in 1963, as a full-time general assignment
correspondent at the age of 23. Prior to joining ABC News, he worked at WMCA Radio in
New York City where he was a desk assistant and an occasional off-air reporter.

A native of Lancashire, England, Koppel moved to the United States when he was 13
years old. He holds a B.A. degree in liberal studies from Syracuse University and an M.A. in
mass communications research and political science from Stanford.

He is married to the former Grace Anne Domey of New York City. They reside in
Potomac, Maryland, and have four children.



ED TURNER



Ed Turner is executive vice president of CNN, responsible for all the network's
newsgathering resources, including the network's domestic and international news bureaus, the
Special Assignment investigative unit, the Special Reports documentary unit and the news
features unit. He is also responsible for the news interview programs based in the Washington
bureau, including "Larry King Live," "Crossfire," "The Capital Gang," "Evans & Novak,"
"International Correspondents" and "Newsmaker Saturday and Sunday."

Among his major accomplishments as executive vice president are the network's coverage
of the 1991 Soviet coup, the war in the Persian Gulf, and the 1989 crisis in China. He was also
responsible for the network's dramatic coverage of the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger
and subsequent hearings, and gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Iran/contra hearings. He also
oversaw the planning of CNN's widely acclaimed coverage of the 1988 and 1984 Democratic
and Republican national conventions, primaries, and general elections. During his tenure, CNN
has received virtually every major award for television journalism, including multiple wins of
the Peabody, New York City Press Club, Overseas Press Club and Sigma Delta Chi Awards.

During his career. Turner has won many awards for excellence in his field. Among them
are a 1958 Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Documentary and two Sigma Delta Chi Awards
for national reporting in 1963. His work at WTTG-TV brought him eight Emmys for
newscasting and production. In 1984, Turner was named one of the Producers of the Year by
Millimeter magazine, the magazine of the television and motion picture production industries.

Turner joined CNN in January 1980, six months before sign-on. He served as managing
editor/executive producer, then was named vice president in charge of daily operations at CNN's
Washington Bureau. He was senior vice president based in Atlanta before being named
executive vice president in May 1984.



38

Turner came to CNN from KWTV-TV in Oklahoma City, where he was vice president
and news director. Prior to that, he was producer of the "CBS Morning News." He also has
held positions as vice president of UPITN in New York and as vice president/news for
Metromedia, Inc. As news director at Metromedia's WTTG-TV in Washington, D.C., he
developed the station's 10.00 p.m. newscast and hired such news personalities as Bob Schieffer,
Pat Collins, Barbara Howar, and Connie Chung. Turner began his television news career as
reporter and anchor for KWTV-TV in 1959.

Turner was bom in Bartlesville, OK. He holds a bachelors degree in broadcast
journalism from the University of Oklahoma, where he spend two years producing and directing
documentary films. In 1985, he was named Distinguished Alumnus of the university's School
of Journalism and Broadcast Communications, the first graduate in broadcast journalism to be
so honored.

Turner is Vice Chairman of the Foundation for American Communications (FACS) and
serves on the Advisory Council at the University of Oklahoma. He is married to Susan Rook,
a CNN news anchor.



39

Prepared Statement of Michael R. Beschloss, Senior Fellow and Director,
Annenberg Project on Television and U.S. Foreign Policy

Presidents, Television and Foreign Crises
introduction

Asked to participate in a conference on television and the Cuban Missile Crisis,
John F. Kennedy's Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, first said, "I'm afraid
I can't help you. I don't think I turned on a television set during the whole two
weeks of that crisis." i Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney would not have been likely
to make a similar comment about the Persian Gulf War.

Over the past four years, The Annenberg Washington Program has sponsored a
series of conferences on the impact of television on presidential decision making in
three very different U.S. foreign policy crises: John F. Kennedy and the 1962 Cuban
Missile Crisis: Gerald R. Ford and the seizure of the S.S. Mayaguez in 1975; and
George Bush and the 1992 Persian Gulf War. Assembling executive branch officials
and journalists who dealt with each episode, the sessions were designed not only
to add to the historical record, but to isolate ways in which U.S. television coverage
affected the terms of the challenge each President faced.

This monograph uses the transcripts of the three conferences, along with commu-
nications studies and the historical literature of the past thirty years, to illuminate
the impact of television on presidential decision making in selected foreign crises
from 1962 to 1993. Part One examines how U.S. television coverage of news and
world affairs has changed. Part Two traces the effects of that coverage on presi-
dential decision making in foreign crises during this period. Part Three offers les-
sons that can be extrapolated from this experience for the modem-day President.

PART ONE: HOW U.S. TELEVISION COVERAGE OF WORLD AFFAIRS HAS CHANGED

The launching of Telstar, the first communications satellite, in 1962, provides a
fitting metaphor for the beginning of the period during which Americans turned to
television as their most important news source and in which U.S. networks radically
increased the amount, quality, and intimacy of their international news coverage —
apt because the satellite did so much to bring the world into the American living
room.

The American of 1962 who used television as a primary source of news on foreign
an"airs could not have been very satisfied. A poll taken around that time found that
only 29% of Americans considered television the most credible news source avail-
able.2 The evening newscasts of the U.S. networks were no more than fifteen min-
utes each. As Sander Vanocur, who in 1962 was White House correspondent for
NBC, recalled, "We had a program called 'Huntley-Brinkley' . . . .Of fifteen min-
utes, you had about eleven-and-a-half minutes devoted to news after the commer-
cials." Images of foreign events were at least a day out of date: 16-millimeter black-
and-white film had to be developed, edited, and flown to the United States. Even
later in the decade, as the television producers Michael Mosettig and Henry Griggs,
Jr., have written, "foreign news rarely appeared on the evening news shows, unless
it was from Vietnam." 3

This changed rapidly during the 1970s. By the end of that decade, the Intelsat
satellite system had expanded to more than 135 nations. The cost of satellite trans-
mission to the United States (especially from Western Europe) declined sharply.
U.S. television networks switched from film to videotape, using new lightweight
cameras and editing facilities. Turning away from foreign news agencies, networks
increasingly used their own reporters, producers, and technicians to cover world af-
fairs. News anchors began anchoring their broadcasts from foreign cities.

Between 1976 and 1981, the mean amount of time devoted to international news
per weeknight U.S. network newscast increased from roughly seven to ten minutes.
Network news became more profitable. Newly established news programs like
"Nightline" displayed an impressive appetite for coverage of foreign affairs. The in-
crease in foreign affairs coverage went hand in hand with the rise of television
news; by 1980, 51% of Americans found television the most credible news source



1 McNamara conversation with the author, 1988.

2This is from a Roper Organization poll taken in 1959. Respondents were asked, "If you got
conflicting or difTerent reports of the same news story from radio, television, the magazines and
the newspapers, which of the four versions would you be most inclined to believe — the one on
radio or television or magazines or newspapers?"

3 Michael Mosettig and Henry Griggs, Jr., 'TV at the Front," Foreign Policy, Spring 1980.



40

(compared with 22% for newspapers).4 During the next decade, the ascent of CNN,
whose founder was deeply committed to international news coverage, further en-
forced the claim of television news on the attention of the public and of the world.

As Vanocur said, "Now, in the present atmosphere, you have round-the-clock
news. You have the beginning of the week with the Sunday morning shows. Then
you have the weekdays that begin with the morning shows on the three networks
and on local stations across the country. You end it with local television and
'Nightline.'. . . You have anchormen who are now omnipotent figures unto them-
selves, who are at every event, more or less. . . .Now I don't think that this could
intimidate a president. . .[but] it would complicate his life."

More than print or radio, television news — especially as practiced with the more
and more vivid and dramatic techniques of the 1970s and 1980s — provoked an in-
tense and often passionate reaction to foreign issues. This and the increasing preva-
lence of foreign coverage had much to do with the fact that Americans of the late
1970s and 1980s were probably more animated by foreign issues than they had ever
been before in peacetime.

At no time has this been more true than at moments of foreign challenge. During
the past thirty years, presidents have increasingly had to hone their skills in deal-
ing with television during foreign crises, operating in an environment that became
very different from that of 1962.

PART TWO: THE EFFECTS OF TELEVISION COVERAGE ON PRESIDENTIAL DECISION

MAKING

Most of John Kennedy's successors would look on his situation during the Cuban
Missile Crisis with nostalgia and envy. Although it was the gravest crisis of the
Cold War, Kennedy had the luxury of operating in what they would probably con-
sider to be the halcyon age before modern television news coverage. That crisis
serves as a baseline against which to measure the changes wrought over the next
three decades.

Throughout the episode, Kennedy repeatedly benefited from a cocoon of time and
privacy afforded by the absence of intensive television scrutiny. The first occasion
of this was on October 16, 1962, when the CIA informed him of overhead reconnais-
sance findings that there were Soviet offensive missiles in Fidel Castro's Cuba. This
caused him an enormous political problem. A month earlier he had assured the pub-
lic that there were no such missiles on the island and that if there were, it would
cause a confrontation of the first magnitude with the Soviet Union.

Had this occurred in the environment of the 1990s, one of the U.S. television net-
work's satellites might have discovered the missiles at roughly the same moment
the CIA did. The news might have been revealed in an ABC special report that in-
cluded tape of Kennedy's assurances and pictures of the missiles. On that report
and on "Nightline" that evening, angry conservative senators and congressmen
would have demanded to know why Kennedy had kept the Soviet outrage a secret
from the American people, and called on him to fulfill his pledge by bombing the
missile sites immediately. Kennedy would have been faced with almost unbearable
congressional and public pressure to order an air strike. We now know from Soviet
sources that had he done so, it would almost certainly have led quickly to nuclear
war.

Ironically, the presence of U.S. television network satellites might have deterred
the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, from slipping the missiles into Cuba. As
McNamara said, "When Khrushchev made the decision to introduce the missiles
into Cuba, he made it for certain reasons. We can argue whether he was wise or
unwise, but he had certain objectives in mind. . . . He took account of the environ-
ment he was of)erating in. If an element of that environment had been the availabil-
ity of satellite photographs, he would have changed his program, and he would have
behaved in a way that made it unlikely that the satellite photographs available to
the press would have disclosed what he was doing. . . .He would have planned his
operation differently." ^

Instead, in the environment of 1962, Kennedy had six days during which the pub-
lic did not know about the missiles. As Vanocur recalled, "There was a lid on this
town [Washington], the likes of which I have never seen. Very good sources, sources
who were friends, would not answer phone calls. Because of this enormous tape-
worm called television now, there would have to be somebody coming out and saying
something, or else people would panic. Because if nobody is speaking, that means



■iThis was an updating of the 1959 Roper Organization poll.

sAnnenberg Washington Program on Television and the Cuban Missile Crisis, Washington,
D.C., May 31, 1989.



41

something terrible has happened. And that is what technology has brought to
us. . . .If Kennedy had ordered, 'Don't go on any talk shows, and for God's sake,
don't go on Koppel [Ted Koppel's 'Nightline'],] that would have caused a story." e

Kennedy used his six days to secretly convene his advisers and deliberate about
the matter in quiet, without public hysteria. As McNamara said, "When an adminis-
tration develops a culture of leaks, either because it initiates them as a tool of politi-
cal administration, as some have, or because it permits them through lack of dis-
cipline, as some have, this reduces the time available to consider these complicated
questions. . . .We were determined to take sufficient time to thoughtfully and thor-
oughly consider the options available to us. . . .A culture of stimulation of leaks
and/or tolerance of leaks has developed over the last twenty-five years. And I think
that limits a president's ability to deal wisely and effectively with certain prob-
lems. . . .Once you, as a president, engage in establishing that atmosphere, it gets
beyond your control, and that encourages leaks from other people — unauthorized
leaks. . . .Manipulation by leaks establishes a culture which carries a price with
it. And it's that that we did not really have to contend with during the Missile Cri-
sis. And I think it was very beneficial.'"'

When the crisis committee, "Ex Comm," first met, the consensus was on the side
of an immediate air strike. By the end of the week, the majority was for starting
ofT with more modest measures. As McNamara said, "Would the actions in the
Cuban Missile Crisis have been different had there not been time to consider this
thoughtfully in secret? Well, I think probably they would have been different. . . .1
fear that some of our initial judgments [in favor of an air strike], later changed,
would have had greater influence." s Thus in the culture of 1962, Kennedy had the
leisure, with full consultation of his advisers, to make a thoughtful decision that
most historians would now find to be wise. A modern-day president would not be
so lucky.

Robert Pierpoint of CBS disagreed with McNamara's preference for presidential
decision making in secrecy and quietude: "It isn't necessarily true that all the brains
on how to handle this crisis, or any other crisis, are all concentrated in the Ex
Comm. And I'm not sure that the public itself — or certain participants in the public
dialogue — couldn't have been useful, which is one reason why I'm not willing to say
that it always has to be done in secret. . . .In our system at least, most of us be-
lieve that the public does have some things to offer in a situation like this.''^

McNamara replied, "I understand what you are saying. Bob, but do you think that
thirty-second sound bites put the public in the position of thoughtfully considering
and participating in a debate on issues as complex as those we're talking about? I
don't think so. . . .What I'm arguing is that at times, even today, I think we benefit
from an ability to consider these complex questions before we are deluged with half-
informed public opinion. . . .1 would still insist on time to decide before we put this
nation at risk of nuclear war." 1°

Vanocur added, 'There is in my lifetime a kind of acceptance of the idea that
what television puts on is the truth. My dear friend Dan Rather [CBS anchor] wrote
a book called The Camera Never Blinks . . . 'the camera never blinks' is supposed


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