NY Legislature – Bills (A420A and S.1693A) Would Limit News Coverage of Live on the Scene Medical Events

Two bills have been introduced in the New York Legislature that will affect your ability to cover on-the-scene events that involve medical treatment.  In the Assembly, the bill A.420A is sponsored by Ed Braunstein (D Queens). The legislation (S.1693A) in the Senate is sponsored by Sen. Liz Krueger (D Manhattan).

The bills would require stations to obtain a separate medical release from a patient receiving treatment before broadcasting the patient’s recognizable image or voice.  The failure to obtain such a release could result in a patient suing the broadcast station.  This raises a significant problem with reporting from live on the scene events.

The legislation exposes stations to civil liability for covering “on-the- spot events,” where individuals are being treated by EMT and being placed into ambulances.  Many of the iconic 9/11 videos or news reports of accident scenes would subject TV stations to civil liability from patients appearing in these pictures.  It is absolutely impossible for a station to obtain the consent forms from people who are being loaded into ambulances.   Stations should not be liable for broadcasting images of people in an ambulance with the back door open.  Moreover, stations cannot pixelate or block an image while broadcast a live event on the street.

There is no exemption for news or news investigative programs such as 60 Minutes. The problem sought to be addressed by the legislation is the failure to obtain written permission from a patient that was essentially a weekly “reality” program.  This type of program is vastly different from nightly news. Many events involve breaking news necessitating live on-the-scene reports.

Years ago Geraldo Rivera reported on the Willow Brook School.  This news report resulted in significant changes to the mental health laws in New York.  Had S.1693A been on the books, this report could not have been broadcast.

An exemption for newscasts is essential to meet First Amendment concerns.  The bills must be amended to:  1) protect stations from liability for reporting at live on the scene events and 2) Exempt news reports from potential liability

We have been lobbying this legislation extensively.

To see a copy of our Memo in Opposition click HERE.

To see copy of S.1693A (the bills are identical) click HERE.


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