Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), a friend of the major TV networks on
media-ownership issues, is upset with ABC News anchor Peter Jennings over recent
interviews with U.S. forces stationed near the Persian Gulf.
Stearns, who serves on the media-overseeing Energy and Commerce Committee,
sent a letter March 14 to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld complaining that
Jennings asked U.S. troops and commanders a number of inappropriate hypothetical
questions "regarding combat, enemy responses and casualties."
In the letter, co-signed by 10 House Republicans, Stearns expressed concern
about an experienced television reporter like Jennings asking young troops about
their fears as they prepared for possible war with Iraq.
The letter, which focused on a March 10 segment from World News
Tonight, also questioned a Jennings voiceover saying that the troops
preferred to fight in the dark but worried about "friendly fire," or the
accidental killing of a U.S. soldier by other U.S. personnel.
"Providing media access to our troops is necessary to assist in providing
accurate information for the American public and other nations. However, we must
be mindful that reporting facts is quite different from generating an emotional
story for ratings purposes," the letter said.
An ABC News spokesman declined to comment.
Stearns introduced legislation Feb. 27 that would allow The Walt Disney Co.,
ABC's corporate parent, and other broadcast-network giants to own newspapers in
the same market as their stations and to own a station group that reaches 45
percent of U.S. TV households, up from 35 percent.
The bill (H.R. 1035) would also ease restrictions on owning two TV stations
in a local market.