NEW YORK (May. 3)
An NBC news executive Tuesday defended his network’s decision to interrupt Monday afternoon programming with a special bulletin on Israeli troop movements into Lebanon.
The urgency of NBC’s treatment of the story, in which an estimated 500 to 2,000 troops crossed into Lebanon in search of terrorist strongholds, seemed at odds with the way the story was handled in subsequent reports by other networks and newspapers.
Unlike NBC, neither ABC nor CBS broke into regularly scheduled programming or ran the Israeli incursion as the top story on their nightly newscasts.
Lloyd Siegel, NBC’s executive producer for special broadcasts, stood by the network’s decision to interrupt programming.
“Given the information that we had then and that we received this morning, it was an important enough story to break in for a brief amount of time,” said Siegel.
Executives at the other networks viewed and continue to view the story differently, however. “Our information was slightly different. We made an editorial decision not to interrupt,” said Elise Adde, director of news information at ABC.
“We were aware that something was happening,” said Lane Venardos, vice president in charge of special events at CBS. “The reading at the time, though, was that this was expected, wasn’t a big deal and not unlike several others that happened previously.”
‘AT ODDS’ WITH CBS REPORTS
Venardos said the NBC reports seemed “clearly at odds” with what was being reported by CBS sources in Tel Aviv, especially correspondent Bob Simon.
“The rule of thumb is that we go with people in the field if what they are saying is at odds with what’s coming over the wires,” said Venardos.
Network officials seem to agree, as Venardos put it, that special bulletins send “a clear signal that this is very to extremely important.” In recent weeks, the networks have interrupted programming to report on U.S. Iranian clashes in the Persian Gulf, U.S. troop movements in Honduras and the resolution of the Kuwaiti airliner hijacking.
Many Jewish groups and individuals have been highly critical of television network coverage of Israel since unrest began in the administered territories in December. Demonstrations and angry letters to editors have accused the networks of an anti-Israel bias.
Siegel called such charges “specious.”
“Our interest in that region is not the result of any sort of bias,” he said. “It is a region of continuing and possibly increasing importance to the government and our audience.”
NBC’s reportage from Israel on another story was called into question last week. The Israel Government Press Office suspended correspondent Martin Fletcher’s press credentials April 26, after he allegedly violated censorship rules in reporting on the assassination of Abu Jihad, the second in command of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The press office also suspended the credential of Washington Post reporter Glenn Frankel.