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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Thursday May 21, 1998 (Vol. Three; No.82 )

CBS Finally Takes China Connection Seriously, But Not NBC

1) GMA allocated a couple of 13-second items to Gingrich's call for a select China connection committee, but Today remained silent.

2) ABC and CBS aired full reports on the China connection Wednesday night, the first for CBS, but NBC still refuses to give the story anything more than a few seconds.

3) The waiver for Loral story is really old news, first highlighted back on April 4 by the New York Times. But only FNC cared.

>>> "Networks, News Magazines Slow to Note Chinese Contributions, Improvements to Chinese Missiles: Take the Money and Duck," the latest Media Reality Check fax report is now up at the top of the MRC home page. The MRC's Tim Graham found that though the New York Times story about Chung appeared the same day that Frank Sinatra died, this week's Time magazine featured eight pages on Sinatra, but nothing on the China connection. U.S. News & World Report carried 11 pages analyzing the drop in the crime rate, three pages on Sinatra, and four on India. They offered nothing on China, but devoted a page to reporters Julian Barnes and Marianne Lavelle breaking down Ken Starr's expenses, titled "Where did all the Starr-bucks go?" The July 21, 1997 U.S. News, Graham recalled, carried a story titled "Is the latest Red Peril actually a red herring?" The direct address for the fax report: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/reality/1998/fax0521.htm <<<


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Wednesday morning, May 20, ABC's Good Morning America gave a few seconds to Gingrich's plan to create a special committee to look at the China connection, but NBC's Today, for the fourth straight weekday, ignored China. During the 7am and 8am news updates ABC's Antonio Mora read a 13-second item on Gingrich's plan, observed MRC news analyst Clay Waters.

     Today skipped Gingrich, devoting the 7am half hour features to an interview about the satellite/pager problem, a story on Powerball and a discussion with Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin about the new $20 bill. That means that through Wednesday morning, Today on weekdays and Sunday, has yet to utter a syllable about the China connection. Nothing last Friday, the day the Johnny Chung angle broke in the New York Times, nor Sunday, Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.

     On Sunday's Meet the Press, however, Tim Russert declared the allegations, of Democrats receiving Chinese military money, "devastating." NBC's New York producers must not have any respect for the opinion of their Washington Bureau Chief and Vice President. (Even NBC Nightly News has yet to air a full story. See item #2 below.)


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) The China connection finally received some significant broadcast network coverage Wednesday night as ABC ran two pieces and CBS one. NBC ran a brief 24 second item read by anchor Tom Brokaw, putting the six night total time devoted by NBC Nightly News to the China connection, from last Friday through Wednesday night, at a mere 62 seconds.

     All three broadcast networks and FNC led Wednesday night with the broken satellite which disrupted pager services. (CNN did not air an ET/CT prime time newscast, running a Frank Sinatra special at 8pm ET, carrying live coverage of Suharto's resignation from 10 to 10:30pm ET and then a special in Internet photography at 10:30pm ET.)

     Here are some highlights from the Wednesday night, May 20, evening news shows:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight went to the China issue right after the pager outage, spending four minutes and ten seconds on the matter.
     After Peter Jennings noted that the House voted to limit the export of high-technology to China, Linda Douglass provided a story reviewing the issues and charges involved. She explained that in 1995 the State Department opposed transferring U.S. rocket know how, but Clinton overruled and turned approval over to the Commerce Department and Ron Brown. One who benefitted, she noted: Loral chief Bernard Schwartz, the biggest single donor to Democrats. Douglass posited: "Question number one: Did Schwartz's contributions influence Mr. Clinton's decision?"
     Douglass proceeded to explain that in February 1996 a Chinese missile carrying a Loral satellite exploded just after takeoff. Loral gave China a report on what went wrong, but "the Pentagon concluded that report may have passed on information that could have helped Chinese military rockets fly more accurately. Question number two: Has the administration's decision on satellite exports jeopardized national security?"
     Douglass concluded: "Mixed into all of this is the campaign finance scandal. Fundraiser Johnny Chung has told investigators that some of the money he donated to the Democratic Party came from the Chinese army. So, investigators will want to ask once again: Did Chinese money influence U.S. policy."

     Jennings then observed: "This time the President's much vaunted rapid response team has not been so quick to challenge the accusations."
     They haven't had to. Other than ABC the broadcast networks had been AWOL on the China connection and even ABC just ran a brief item last Friday, a full report Sunday and a few seconds Tuesday night.

     From the White House Sam Donaldson asserted: "Peter, it's a serious allegation, one White House officials know they can't dismiss as purely partisan politics, even though the President's critics on Capitol Hill are having a field day pointing with alarm." Donaldson explained the House and Senate plans for special committees and noted that Mike McCurry denied Chinese money had any impact.
     Jennings asked if there's any pressure to cancel Clinton's trip to China. Donaldson said no, elaborating: "And as far as having a welcoming ceremony at Tiananmen Square, they say here that they've got to do it because it would be like a foreigner coming her and saying yes but I won't have a welcoming ceremony on the White House South Lawn."
     Jennings retorted: "Except nobody was killed on the South Lawn of the White House."

     -- CBS Evening News ran its first full report on the China matter. (Before May 20 CBS had allocated just 45 seconds over five nights: 27 seconds on May 15 and 18 seconds on May 19. Zero on May 16, 17 and 18.)

     Halfway into the show Dan Rather introduced a piece from Phil Jones by mentioning the House vote on technology. Jones began on a melodramatic note:
     "Republicans in Congress actually raised the T word, the possibility of treason as they pushed forward with plans to investigate whether American companies illegally gave the Chinese technology secrets..."
     After explaining how a Chinese rocket blew up, leading Loral to give China secret information in an accident analysis, Jones noted how Loral's head is a big Democratic contributor. Jones went on to point out that Trent Lott has also announced a task force to see if national security was compromised, something the White House denies, before concluding: "But members of Congress want to hear more than a White House assurance."

     -- FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report. Carl Cameron offered some ominous information not mentioned by the other networks. He began: "Pentagon staffers tell Fox News their objections to the President's plan to let American aerospace firms like Loral Space Systems launch satellites into orbit on top of Chinese rockets were ignored. Confidential documents obtained by Fox News indicate that in May of 1997 the Department of Defense's Defense Technology Security Administration concluded that Loral, quote, 'had transferred missile expertise to China that significantly enhanced the reliability of it nuclear ballistic missiles.'"

     Cameron also uniquely relayed that "after the crash, government sources say, they found an additional reason for concern. Most of the satellite was recovered, but top secret micro-computer chips were never found that could conceivably be used to de-code secret U.S. communications and even potentially control U.S. satellites if the chips fell into the wrong hands...."

     -- NBC Nightly News continued to treat the China connection as a minor issue hardly worth mentioning, never mind explaining the background of to viewers. After stories on the pager outage, Powerball and Suharto's status, Tom Brokaw took 24 seconds to announce:
     "One day after House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Majority Leader Trent Lott said tonight the Senate now will open its own investigation into reports that high technology exports to China, including missile technology, may have jeopardized national security. The trigger for all of this: recent allegations that China sought to buy influence with campaign contributions to President Clinton and the Democrats."

     That 24 seconds puts the total NBC Nightly News time devoted to the China connection since May 15 at 62 seconds: (15 seconds on May 15 and 23 seconds on May 19. Zero on May 16, 17 and 18.)

     What did NBC spend its time showing Wednesday night: An In Depth segment on how satellites are changing people's lives, followed by a look at the misuse of handicapped parking spots and a story on tributes to Frank Sinatra.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) The networks, especially NBC, have not only been slow to pick up on the latest round of China connection stories, but were absent when the waiver for Loral/donor connection was first reported by the New York Times on April 4. As explained in the April 15 CyberAlert, it took FNC a week and a half to catch up with the New York Times story, but that's sooner than ABC, CBS, CNN or NBC which had not mentioned the development in the morning or evening.

     FNC's Carl Cameron concluded his April 13 story:
     "The Pentagon says national security was breached and perhaps seriously. Though Loral denies wrongdoing, investigators say if the firm donated to the Clinton camp, then got the President's permission to do business with China and shared secrets, it could be the worst example yet of just how much the White House was willing to risk for the big bucks of '96."

     It could be but it took the other networks another four-and-a-half weeks, until May 15, to tell their viewers about the possible waiver-for-money missile technology transfer.

-- Brent Baker

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