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Monday, September 21, 1998 Published at 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK

Video sparks another media field day

A four-hour presidential media event

BBC News Online will be streaming President Clinton's testimony to the Grand Jury in real video.
Click here (from 0900 Washington time - 1300 GMT /1400 BST)

The release of the Starr report did not make great television - but the release of President Clinton's video testimony to the Grand Jury about his affair with Monica Lewinsky is a first for the age of electronic media.

Washington Correspondent Paul Reynolds: "There have never been videotapes like these"
Never before has a man widely regarded as the most powerful in the world undergone such detailed and humiliating interrogation about his sex life. And the media are hungrily lapping up every detail.

The four-hour testimony is not only being broadcast on several television stations, but it is also being streamed on the Internet - the medium that has played a crucial role in the gradual unfolding of the Clinton drama.

BBC News Online is one of several news sites that will bring comprehensive coverage of the event that has sent journalists into a frenzy of anticipation.

From the president's mouth

Established American broadcasters have chosen not to go live with "X-rated" material. They plan to break into their special reports with excerpts of Mr Clinton's testimony.

But several US cable channels including CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and C-Span will be streaming the video as it arrives over fibre-optic cable from a broadcast booth on the third floor of Washington's Rayburn House office building.

US TV networks run warnings of X-rated material
Although some parts of the video have already been edited, broadcasters face the dilemma of how to prepare their audience for what could be sexually-explicit and offensive material.

CNN aired special statements on Sunday warning the video contains "both language and descriptions" that "may be offensive to some viewers and unsuitable to children."

Still other channels - perhaps sensing the public's distaste of the whole affair - will show only the edited highlights.

The Internet, of course, has the edge on television, as it is able to provide a video link for viewers who want to see it all, edited highlights, and links to the full 2,800 pages of supplementary documents. It also will report on other news for those who feel they have had enough.

Who's watching anyway?

Since the story of the president's relationship with Miss Lewinsky first broke, the media have been accused of feeding the scandal - and taking a more prurient interest than the public.

According to a CBS poll, 69% of Americans said they felt it was unnecessary to release the video.

[ image: Net users and pick and choose]
Net users and pick and choose
The poll suggested that 59% of the public believed the tape's release had more to do with embarrassing the president than letting the public judge him.

But 52% said they planned to watch it anyway.

The White House Deputy Chief of Staff, John Podesta, said the tape "will be painful to watch".

"But I think there might be a surprising reaction," he said.

"[The lawmakers] decided that rather than just doing a document dump they would do a garbage dump, and I think people are going to wonder about that."

But that has not stopped Chicago-based MPI Home Video, who announced that a videotape called "The Grand Jury Testimony of William Jefferson Clinton," will be released within 10 days at a cost of $15.

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Internet Links

White House: Second Rebuttal

Starr report (Library of Congress mirror)

Starr report (BBC mirror)

The White House: First Rebuttal

Kohl interview in Die Welt (in German)

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