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THE MOUSE, SURVEILLANCE AND ABC NEWS

The use of hidden camera reports has become almost as much a signature of ABC’s “PrimeTime Live” as anchor Sam Donaldson’s distinctive hairline. And the network’s “20/20” has also found clandestine cameras a promotable story device. But once the Walt Disney Co. takes the reins of the network, hidden cameras may no longer be a part of the ABC News bag of tricks. Disney management frowns on the technique.

On the rare occasions when hidden cameras were used in “The Crusaders,” the short-lived syndicated newsmag the Mouse produced, top Disney brass had to give approval – something they were loath to do, according to industry sources. ABC News senior veepee Dick Wald gave a snapshot of things to come when he told Wired, “You ought to think of hidden cameras as a loaded shotgun. It will blow your foot off if you’re not careful.”

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