NBC Seeks To Televise Trump’s Election Conspiracy Trial

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.


NBCUniversal News Group has filed a motion with a federal court seeking to televise former President Donald Trump’s election interference and conspiracy trial, arguing that it is one of the most significant events in modern American history.

NBCU’s legal team, led by Theodore Boutrous Jr., wrote in an application filed with the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., that “civil and criminal proceedings have been televised routinely for decades pursuant to rules in many state courts, with no prejudice to any party or to the administration of justice.”

In an application filed today in U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s court in Washington, D.C., NBCU’s legal team, led by Theodore Boutrous Jr., wrote that “civil and criminal proceedings have been televised routinely for decades pursuant to rules in many state courts, with no prejudice to any party or to the administration of justice.”

“If ever a trial were to be televised, this one should be, for the benefit of American democracy,” they wrote, according to Deadline.com.

The outlet continued:

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Federal district courts have prohibited video and audio coverage of criminal proceedings. NBCU is asking for a pool camera with limited broadcast delay, or for the court itself to provide a live feed.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan has scheduled March 4 as the start date for Trump’s trial on four conspiracy counts related to his efforts to remain in power after the 2020 election. But no video access has been allowed in any of the pre-trial proceedings, despite calls from some lawmakers and media groups. The court has opened up a larger media room and overflow courtroom with a video feed, but reporters are prohibited from recording the proceedings.

A media coalition of major networks and news organizations filed an application for televised proceedings earlier this month, and they also made a request to the Judicial Conference, which oversees the rules of federal courts.

But NBCU’s request was based on “different, additional considerations” than the media group’s. They said that the First Amendment, procedural rules, legal doctrine, and the interpretation of statutes “all separately require audiovisual access to the proceeding.”

“No compelling or substantial government interest supports restricting public access to a minuscule number of reporters and a handful of members of the public who can physically access the courtroom in Washington, D.C. to see and hear what happens,” the NBCU legal team noted further in their motion.

The motion further argued that the judge “need only apply clear, everyday principles of statutory interpretation to determine that it already has authority to permit video and audio of these proceedings.” Also, the motion said that while a Federal Rule of Criminal Procedures prohibits “broadcasting only ‘from the courtroom,’” the NBCU legal team added that doesn’t bar media outlets from utilizing a pool camera whose feed is relayed to studios and then transmitted “outside the courtroom.”

In addition, the rule also does not constrain Chutkan from allowing the court to use equipment to record proceedings that networks can later use, Deadline.com noted.

Boutrous and his team also wrote that if the federal rule “were construed to impose a complete ban on creating and disseminating audiovisual content of criminal trials, that ban would, as applied to this trial, violate the First Amendment.”

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They added it serves “no compelling government interest and manifestly is not the least restrictive means to serve any interest, given the abundant alternatives for this court to manage concerns through tailored measures, as courts in most states do.”

For now, only Trump’s trial in Fulton County, Ga., will be televised. U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon has rejected requests to have his classified document case in Florida televised.

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