An examination of the effects of television coverage of congressional hearings
Lovesky, Ilene G.
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This paper examines four televised Congressional hearings: Kefauver, Army McCarthy, Watergate and Iran-Contra. These hearings were studied in order to determine the effects that television coverage of hearings have on: the public, the hearings and the political process. Each hearing was examined in its historical context. Specific sessions of the hearings were looked at in terms of their televised impact. Finally, an analysis of the effects of the coverage was made. The public was emotionally aroused by the television coverage of the hearings. Despite many critics opinions, there was no evidence from any of the hearings that significant shifts in public opinion came about as a result of watching the hearings on television. Emotions were aroused because television is an emotional medium. Given the environment in which the hearings were presented, it was not surprising that the emotional reaction of the public did not translate into shifting of opinions because the public did not view the "show" as real. The presence of the cameras affected the functioning of the hearings. The focus of the hearings shifts from determining legislative alternatives to informing (influencing) the public. Finally, the coverage affected the political process. Legislators taking part in the hearings gained national exposure and often moved on to higher elective offices. In the most negative view the hearings were perceived as no different than any other drama show. In a positive light, television coverage increased the exposure of a greater percentage of the public to the democratic process in action.
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