Rights groups back NBC tape stance


First Amendment groups are backing NBC's decision not to turn over internal video tapes to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) that allegedly show GE Chairman Jack Welch in the NBC newsroom on Election Night 2000.

"We are writing to express our deep concern over your stated intention to seek a subpoena to compel NBC News to provide a videotape said to be shot in its newsroom on election night," wrote the Media Institute, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. "We strongly believe such a course of action would run afoul of the First Amendment."

Although Tuesday was the deadline set by Waxman for a response from NBC, the network did not send a reply letter. "Our position remains the same," said NBC spokeswoman Kassie Canter. "We've been in contact with Rep. Waxman's office and we hope that we can get the issue behind us."

Waxman on Aug. 2 asked NBC for the fourth time to turn over the video tapes, because Waxman is investigating a rumor that Welch ordered NBC News honchos to call the 2000 election for George W. Bush. Phil Schiliro, Waxman's spokesman, said the Congressman planned to speak with NBC and see if the two parties could arrive at a "constructive resolution" before Waxman would proceed with any plans to subpoena information from NBC.

In the October issue of Vanity Fair, Welch reportedly denies that any such event happened, although he admits that he and others were in the NBC News control room on Election Night. - Paige Albiniak