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ABC News will stop airing footage of WTC attacks
By Dan Whitcomb, Reuters, 09/18/01
LOS ANGELES -- The president of ABC News has ordered the network to stop showing footage of hijacked jetliners slamming into the World Trade Center, saying that repeated broadcast of the images had become gratuitous, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.
"It's sort of an umbrella directive from (ABC News) President David Westin that unless use of the video is viewed as critical to the integrity of the piece it won't be aired," ABC News spokeswoman Su-Lin Nichols said. "It won't air without a fairly high-level conversation."
Nichols said the "management decision" was made on Monday and was announced on the air by anchor Peter Jennings.
Footage of airliners crashing into the twin towers of the World Trade Center last Tuesday were captured on videotape by news crews and amateurs and since have been shown repeatedly on the major networks.
On the first day of the tragedy, the four major broadcast networks and CNN set aside their rivalry and agreed to share news footage. Hundreds died in the worst assault ever on American soil, which left more than 5,000 people dead or missing.
Nichols said Westin's order, which also applies to footage of the two towers exploding and collapsing, was not prompted by viewer calls.
Westin's order makes ABC the first network to call a halt to replays of the chilling footage, and Nichols said the move was well received throughout the news division and by the network's affiliates.
"Clearly ABC views gratuitous use of the footage as not appropriate," Nichols said. "We have communicated to our affiliates what our policy is."
Nichols said Westin's directive did not apply to affiliates or to ABC's entertainment division and should not be considered an iron-clad ban on the images. "There are clearly going to be some circumstances when you can use still photos if they are relevant," she said.
The news divisions of all the Big Four broadcasters -- ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox -- stayed on the air last week with an unprecedented four straight days of round-the-clock, commercial-free coverage of the assaults and their aftermath.