WTVT news director Jim West at the 1980 Republican convention.

    It was my privilege to cover for WTVT both 1980 national political conventions in Detroit and New York City.  In both instances, network transmission feeds were made available to affiliates for sending completed stories back home.  But the live capabilities were reserved for the network itself.

    By 1980, a handful of TV stations were utilizing satellites to send daily reports, or even live anchors from their Washington , D.C. bureaus.  At this time there were few mobile satellite units. The huge C band trucks took days to set up and to gain FCC clearances in order to be used in a temporary location. Thus, most of the newsgathering usage was from fixed locations such as a bureau studio from which the signal would be sent through microwave links to a satellite uplink center or teleport.

WTVT was first to use satellites to cover news from outside the market. The catalyst was the Abscam trial of Congressman Richard Kelly of the Fifth Congressional District, comprising several of the counties in the northern portion of the Channel 13 viewing area. I was assigned to cover the trial which was beginning late in the year in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C.

 Cong. Richard Kelly interviewed 
by Jim West

   Abscam was a sting operation begun in 1978 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI created a front, Abdul Enterprises, Ltd., hence Abscam, for its agents, who, posing as associates of an Arab sheik, offered selected public officials money or other considerations in exchange for special favors. The videotaped meetings resulted in the indictments in 1980 and ultimately the convictions of one senator and four congressmen, among them Richard Kelly, whose conviction was later overturned.

   Kelly was caught red-handed on tape.  After pocketing the money in the videotape he turned to one of the agents and said "Does it show?" Kelly's defense was even more bizarre, claiming that he took the money as part of his own probe into congressional corruption.