Fighting for the First Amendment: Stanton of CBS vs. Congress and the Nixon White House

Synopsis

Here is an inside look at how a Congressional Committee, supported by the Nixon White House, sought to establish control over broadcast news by investigating editorial news judgment. Frank Stanton, legendary President of CBS, refused to produce outtakes from the award-winning documentary, "The Selling of the Pentagon", subpoenaed by the Committee in an attempt to condemn the program and CBS. The Committee voted to hold Stanton and CBS in contempt, and the House of Representatives held a full debate on its power to investigate and control broadcast news. Had Stanton not taken up the fight he describes to gain First Amendment protection, broadcast news would have been shaped by Congressional hearings and intimidation. Finally Stanton's story is told in his own words in this account of his fight to secure First Amendment freedom for the news media. This book examines the ongoing conflict between media and government and dismisses the theory that press regulation by a government agency is desirable. CBS's fight,over "The Selling of the Pentagon" clearly illustrates how government interference can keep vital information from the public. Broadcast news history shows that press regulations are not benign - despite government claims - and once they are in place, neither great resources nor the urgent need for truth may fully remove them. As public opinion polls show increasing support for such regulations, Stanton's story serves as a timely reminder of the need for a press free of government interference, as print, cable, broadcast, and satellite news move onto the Information Superhighway.