Satellite Link Allows White House to Bypass TV Networks
By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
In an escalation of White House efforts to
circumvent what President Bush calls the news media "filter," the
Pentagon plans to launch a 24-hour satellite channel from
The satellite link, dubbed "C-SPAN
Baghdad" within the administration, is to go on the air in a week or two.
It begins at a time when guerrilla violence in
Administration officials assert that
The channel is the most aggressive yet of several administration efforts to bypass national news organizations, including a succession of interviews for local television stations with Bush, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others.
One Republican strategist expressed skepticism about the project, saying it appeared to be an effort "to improve public opinion back home" before Bush's reelection campaign gets fully underway.
The officials said the channel will offer
uncut coverage of government briefings and other events, and they plan to
"We want the stations to show not just the shocking picture but the whole picture," said a senior administration official who refused to be named. "Car bombs are news, but there's a journalistic responsibility to paint a more comprehensive picture."
White House communications director Dan
Bartlett said a shortage of reliable satellite conduits from
"The better technology will make it
easier for reporters from news organizations, big or small, to cover the story
as it unfolds,"
The project is being headed by J. Dorrance
Smith, who was assistant to the president for media
affairs in George H.W. Bush's administration and advised the younger Bush on
Smith has been working in
The new channel was first reported by the
New York Observer, which quoted Smith as saying that removing the network
intermediaries would help prevent news conferences and other events from
"getting chopped up in
The administration officials said they will make the satellite coordinates of the transmissions widely available so that stations, government offices and conservative interest groups can pick up the coverage at will. The events also could be picked up by cable and broadcast networks.
Dave Busiek, news
director of KCCI, the CBS affiliate in
"Part of the argument is that those of us in local TV ask softball questions and aren't skilled enough to separate the real news from the pure spin," he said. "It's pretty insulting. That being said, if I could have a live interview with Ambassador Bremer, for instance, in my newscast, that's a tempting possibility and I have no doubt it would be valuable for our viewers."
Barbara Cochran, president of the Radio-Television News Directors Association, said several local stations have aired stories about the bleak conditions being endured by military families, and she said administration officials might find themselves answering tough questions.
But many stations with large military bases
in their areas cannot afford to send a reporter to
The channel is starting amid changes in the administration's communications team. Tucker A. Eskew, director of the White House Office of Global Communications, told officials yesterday he will leave on Dec. 7. He plans to open a consulting firm and serve as a senior adviser to Bush's campaign.
who was Bush's ambassador to
© 2003 The Washington Post Company