Should television delay live coverage?


From the Rose Law Group Growlery by Phil Riske, managing editor

Phoenix attorney David Abney has filed an action with the Arizona Supreme Court to hold networks and stations that don’t use tape delays liable for damages.

The issue stems from the live coverage by Fox News of the 80-mile high-speed chase that ended near Tonopah when the suspect JoDon Romero shot himself to death. His children saw their father die on a YouTube video.

The family sued for intentional infliction of emotional distress, but the Court of Appeals ruled the chase was a matter of public concern, and networks and TV stations have no obligation to cut away.

This is, in my opinion, a slippery slope First Amendment case.

Abney claims stations should know something bad is bound to happen and should use a delay in case there’s a need to edit out the bad stuff.

Foremost, media have the right to cover almost anything, unless prohibited by a lawful order. Mr. Abney should know news reporters and photographers are not omniscient — they don’t know what might come next.

Should the networks have not filmed then shown JFK in Dallas that fateful day, knowing he had a lot of political enemies there.

To delay live coverage of an event on a hunch something tragic might happen is chilling, playing God and, more down to earth, censorship.

While the media do have responsibilities regarding programming unfit for children, they can’t protect viewers from seeing or hearing something that might be upsetting.

Cover the news, and the chips will fall where they may.

All that said, one can ask whether helicopters flying after high-speed chases is worth the risk to news crews, and is that kind of story of real value to the public interest, regardless of what the appellate court found?

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