DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — At least six television networks said Thursday they plan to stop or minimize airings of video showing Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice striking his then-fiancee and knocking her unconscious, footage that has called into question how the NFL disciplines players involved in domestic violence.
The move comes after the video from a casino elevator showing Janay Palmer crumpling to the floor after a punch has already been seen many times on TV since TMZ released it Monday: During the 7 a.m. EDT news hour on Tuesday, the video clip aired 37 times on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC, according to a count by Media Matters for America. In addition, the networks aired an old video showing Palmer outside of the elevator nine times, the group said.
Media Matters did not have a count on how many times the clip was aired on sports networks.
ESPN, CNN, ABC, NBC, Fox News Channel and Fox Sports all said Thursday they would no longer show the video unless there are compelling news reasons to bring it back.
“The video has been seen enough for viewers to clearly know what happened, and make their own judgments about what should happen next,” said Michael Clemente, executive vice president at Fox News. “Our judgment is that continuing to show it is simply overdoing it for shock value, and not for journalistic reasons.”
Hours later, however, Fox aired it on both “The Five” and Bret Baier’s newscast during reports on an investigation to be conducted by former FBI director Robert Mueller.
At a certain point, it becomes gratuitous, said Janelle Rodriguez, vice president of programming at CNN.
The networks defended airing the video in full, however, because it was clearly newsworthy.
NBC “Today” show spokeswoman Megan Kopf Stackhouse said the rule is to “air it with discretion only when necessary and not in a gratuitous or inflammatory manner.”
Because of the nature of cable news networks, where it is assumed viewers don’t stay for a long time so stories are repeated, it meant the video got plenty of airtime. That was particularly true at the ESPN networks, where there are 18 separate “Sportscenter” editions shown in a 24-hour period, and the Rice story was getting attention in all of them.
The reaction by the NFL in suspending Rice indefinitely and the Baltimore Ravens in cutting him from their team after this week’s video surfaced proved its newsworthiness, said Josh Krulewitz, ESPN’s spokesman.
By late Tuesday morning, ESPN had decided to stop. “It was obviously quite disturbing and we felt the audience had seen it enough,” Krulewitz said.
That doesn’t mean portions won’t return. When it began being discussed on Wednesday that Rice had spit on Palmer, ESPN began airing part of the video prior to the punch to see if that was true, Krulewitz said. The full video was not used later Wednesday when an Associated Press story called into question whether someone from the league had seen it prior to this week.
Leaders of womens’ groups had mixed feelings about the ubiquity of the video shortly after its release.
“It’s a very difficult thing for a victim of violence to have her abuse shown over and over again to the public,” said Kim Gandy, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based National Network to End Domestic Violence. “At the same time, it is creating a national conversation about domestic violence that could have the effect of saving lives.”
She said she didn’t need to see the video. “I know what happened,” Gandy said.
The clear evidence of abuse, and the almost mundane way it took place, is very illuminating for the public, said Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. Unlike many other crimes, people tend not to believe or to minimize domestic violence unless they see the direct evidence, she said.
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