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NBC News misses deadline to disclose internal videotapes

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials

    NMU         NEW YORK         Confidentiality/Privilege         Sep 7, 2001    

NBC News misses deadline to disclose internal videotapes

  • Congressman continues to press network for videotapes of newsroom decision-making on election night.

Despite a Sept. 4 deadline imposed by a congressman, NBC News has not released video footage believed to capture decisions made in the network’s newsroom forecasting the presidential winner last November.

In a letter dated Aug. 2, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) offered NBC president Andrew Lack one month to reveal internal videotapes allegedly recorded on election night 2000. As the deadline rolled over on Sept. 4, NBC had yet to furnish any recorded material.

Waxman wants to know if Jack Welch, the chairman and CEO of General Electric Co., interfered with NBC’s decision to prematurely call the presidential race in favor of GOP candidate George W. Bush. Waxman contends Welch had a distinct interest in Bush attaining the nation’s top post and influenced the network staff in its decision to call the race in Bush’s favor. NBC is a subsidiary of General Electric.

During a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing held in February, Waxman asked the NBC president to verify a rumor about the existence of videotapes capturing Welch’s alleged involvement with election forecasting. Lack denied knowledge of any such recordings, but he agreed under oath to provide tapes to Waxman if they exist. Lack also refuted a rumor that Welch interfered with the news process.

Waxman threatened at the hearing to subpoena NBC to dislodge the tapes, if necessary. Afterwards, in a letter to Lack, Waxman wrote that he would “take steps to try to compel the production of videotapes.”

But it is unclear if Waxman will pursue legal action.

“We are going to see if it is possible to work something out in a mutually agreeable way,” said Phil Schiliro, Waxman’s press secretary.

In a series of letters written after the hearing, Waxman continued to pursue Lack for videotapes. Waxman believes video cameras were recording the newsroom on that evening for advertising and promotional purposes, Schiliro said.

“It would be highly inappropriate for us to share any such tapes with the Government,” Lack responded in a letter to Waxman in April.

The network wants to put the issue to rest, but it has yet to determine how to do this, NBC spokeswoman Kassie Canter said.


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© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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