Television in the Courtroom

January 16, 1981

Report Outline
Trend Toward Televised Trials
Fair Trial and Fair Treatment
Search for Equitable Solutions
Special Focus

Trend Toward Televised Trials

Role of Recording Equipment in Court

The right to a fair trial is the cornerstone of the American system of criminal justice. Its importance in American life is equalled only by the right to vote and the right to speak and think freely. In the United States, a trial is a public event — but not a public spectacle. It is open to the public who wish to attend, but insulated against undue external pressures by the atmosphere of the courtroom, the impartiality of the judge and the lack of bias of the jurors.

In the last five years, a threat to this fundamental right has arisen from an unlikely direction. Television — the most influential modern invention since the automobile — has entered many courtrooms across the country. Although still barred from federal trials, television cameras are now found in courtrooms in more than half the states, recording events for simultaneous or delayed broadcast on television news programs.

Advocates of televised trials hail this development as fostering greater public understanding of the criminal justice system. But others believe that it undermines the fairness of trials by injecting irrelevant and dangerous influences into the judicial process.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Challenges of the Courts
Nov. 04, 2022  Conservatorships
Jan. 14, 2011  Cameras in the Courtroom
Oct. 22, 1993  Science in the Courtroom
May 27, 1988  Protecting Rights in State Courts
Oct. 07, 1983  Court Backlog
Jan. 16, 1981  Television in the Courtroom
Jun. 03, 1970  Reform of the Courts
Nov. 16, 1960  Congestion in the Courts
Mar. 07, 1956  Cameras in Court
Jul. 18, 1939  Reform of Lower Federal Courts
Feb. 04, 1936  Restriction of Powers of Federal Courts
Apr. 14, 1931  Reform of Magistrates' Courts
Federal Courts
Judicial Appointments
Radio and Television
Supreme Court History and Decisions