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TV Cameras Rejected in U.S. Supreme Court Health-Care Case

March 16 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Supreme Court rejected media and lawmaker requests for television coverage of this month’s arguments on President Barack Obama’s health-care law, and agreed to release same-day audio recordings.

The court, in a statement citing the “extraordinary public interest” in the case, said it will post the audio on its website each afternoon of the three-day argument. The court generally only releases audio on a weekly basis.

Justices will hear six hours of arguments March 26-28 -- the most in 44 years -- and probably rule in late June. The central question in a challenge by 26 states and a business trade group is whether Congress exceeded its authority by requiring Americans to either get insurance or pay a penalty.

The justices have never allowed video coverage of their arguments. Over the years, the justices have provided a number of explanations: that they would lose their anonymity, that cameras would change the dynamic in the courtroom, and that news organizations would use only snippets of the arguments.

In the health-care case, the court received requests for live video or audio coverage from a dozen lawmakers and more than 30 media organizations, including C-SPAN and Bloomberg News.

C-SPAN said in an e-mailed statement that it will run the audio on TV, radio and the Internet as soon as the recordings are released. The news organization said it was “disappointed” the court didn’t go further.

Public Interest

“We continue to believe allowing video coverage of Supreme Court oral arguments is in the public’s best interest,” C-SPAN said in the statement.

The court’s three-paragraph statement didn’t mention video cameras. The court’s spokeswoman, Kathy Arberg, said the court won’t allow television coverage.

The same-day audio release marks a change in the court’s most recent policy, adopted in 2010, to release audio for all its cases at the end of the week. Before that, starting with the Bush v. Gore presidential-election clash in 2000, the court released audio from select cases on the same day as the argument.

Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the court had taken a “step forward” with the expedited audio release in the health-care case.

“I continue to support live audio streaming and permitting cameras in our nation’s courtrooms, including in the Supreme Court, so that Americans can witness these public proceedings as they happen,” Leahy said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Stohr in Washington at gstohr@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

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