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Committed to the First Amendment 1/27/2002 07:00:00 PM Eastern

Bind up the wounds

The exhibit floor at last week's schizophrenic NATPE conference in Las Vegas may not have been filled with people, but it was littered with gloves, dropped by syndicators and association executives alike as the battle over the future of syndication sales gatherings turned into a bare-knuckles brawl.

Brewing for a couple of years, the fight came to a head last week when Warner Bros. sales veteran Dick Robertson announced his desire for a spring presentation in New York (where advertisers are) and a fall screening in Los Angeles (where Warner Bros. is) but probably not a presence in New Orleans next January (where NATPE plans to be). "I don't think it's really necessary that NATPE be involved," he added. "Hypocrite!" shot back a blindsided Bruce Johansen (NATPE's president). "Sometimes very smart people do some very dumb things," added outgoing Chairman Jon Mandel. Time out.

NATPE has to change, and the organization knows it. Johansen has said as much and did so again last week. If the timing of the conference and its proximity to advertisers are major points of contention, they could and should be addressed. NATPE could be enlisted in helping with the New York and Los Angeles meetings, leaving next year's New Orleans gathering as a transition show, with the conference portion focusing on strong sessions and the floor targeted primarily to international buyers. Syndicators know how to sell shows; NATPE knows how to put one on.

Dick Robertson wants a revamped process. Bruce Johansen wants a revitalized NATPE. Both are legitimate aims, and not mutually exclusive. Before this breach becomes a chasm, Robertson and Johansen or new NATPE chairman Tony Vinciquerra should talk. Vinciquerra picked up the gavel last week with a vow to make peace. We hope he can do it.

Still no admittance

We were disappointed in the ruling of U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema that cameras would be excluded from the trial of suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui. Her reasons were essentially twofold. The first was the ancient rule against microphones and photographs, which she concluded was mandatory. Her second was that she would have barred cameras anyway in concern for security and the intimidation of witnesses. We can argue the second point: What message does it send if we will not open up the court for fear of the terrorists? But the point was only hypothetical and the debate only an intellectual exercise, given her conclusion that the rule gave her no latitude. On that issue, we give no quarter. Judges need to have the discretion to allow cameras, so the debate over when and how can commence. Justice may have a blindfold, but it shouldn't have its hands tied as well.

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