Most local Boston television stations are refusing to use the Pentagon-sponsored footage out of Baghdad, dubbed “C-SPAN Baghdad,” which “I wrote”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/000489.php#000489 about earlier this month.
“I’m kind of appalled by it. I think it’s very troubling,” said Charles Kravetz, vice president of news at the regional cable news outlet NECN. “I think the government has no business being in the news business.”
“We have no interest in this,” said WBZ-TV (Channel 4) news director Peter Brown. “The Fourth Estate is independent and should remain so. As news providers, we should go there and see for ourselves.”
Government officials deny the footage is an effort on the part of the Pentagon to manage the news coming out of Iraq.
“Basically, this provides us with the ability to feed back briefing materials and the substance of what is happening in Baghdad to the Pentagon … on a real-time basis,” [said Dorrence Smith, a former ABC newsman now working for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and the man in charge of C-SPAN Baghdad.] “It’s for one or for all as opposed to the very few media who are here in Baghdad.”
Smith, by the way, is the guy who managed President Bush’s media strategy in the Florida recount in 2000. And if that doesn’t make your blood pressure go up a bit, a Department of Defense spokesman Bryan Whitman stressed that while the project’s function is to provide live briefings back to the Pentagon, he “wouldn’t want to rule out anything in the future.”
Atrios over at Eschaton won’t give the stations any props for not running the feed, but I will — for now. Why don’t you readers send the guys at the stations feedback applauding them for living up to their Fourth Estate duties (in this case) and encourage them that their judgment in rejecting the feed is appreciated.
Still, for all my bluster regarding C-SPAN Baghdad, I’m kind of inclined to agree with “Jack Shafer”:http://slate.msn.com/id/2092950/ over at “Slate”:http://www.slate.com, and not just because he links to me in the article. He’s of the mind that the Pentagon’s obvious efforts at propaganda will crash and burn because Americans are more likely to watch _Seinfeld_ than they are to watch empty military ceremonies and video of soldiers painting schools. He also makes the interesting observation that C-SPAN Baghdad will have the — surely unintentional — effect of putting the CPA and the administration on record regarding various goings-on in Iraq. “Such a record of their own making would make this administration much more accountable than they already are,” he writes. “If the propagandists insisted on putting a happy face on Iraq for U.S. news consumers while thousands of U.S. soldiers die and Iraqis riot, they would lose all credibility. But here they’re caught in a double-bind: If they tell the truth, they start converging upon the independent press’s mission and begin to negate their own raison d’etre.”
So while the Pentagon’s plan is execrable and an insulting waste of taxpayers’ money, if more local stations like those in Boston reject the feed and news consumers turn to a few of the upteen million media outlets that can counter the feed — like this one! “Send me back to Iraq!”:https://www.paypal.com/xclick/business=chris%40back-to-iraq.com&%0Aitem_name=Reports+from+the+%0AMiddle+East+by+an+independent+journalist — it’s likely the newest series from Bagdad will be cancelled before the next season.