In an editorial in his hometown paper, The Los Angeles Times, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) on Monday defended his efforts to get NBC to turn over an internal videotape that allegedly shows GE Chairman Jack Welch urging news executives to call the presidential election for George W. Bush.
Waxman defends NBC's First Amendment rights, but also says the government has the right to know TV networks are remembering the public interest when they use airwaves loaned to them by the government. Even more problematic, Waxman writes, is that NBC is owned by corporate giant General Electric, "whose corporate interests range from toasters to promoting nuclear power to selling defense weapons. All of those interests are significantly affected by who's elected president. General Electric has every right to advocate its corporate interest; but an inviolate wall must exist between it and its wholly owned television subsidiary," Waxman wrote.
Since network news executives appeared before Congress last Februrary, Waxman has been pushing NBC President Andrew Lack to turn over the internal videotape of NBC's election night coverage. So far, the network has refused to do so. In his last letter, Waxman asked Lack to respond to his most recent request for the tape by Sept. 4. Meanwhile, an NBC spokesman said the network has been talking to members of Congress to gauge their reaction to Waxman's reqests for the tape and to see if they support issuing a subpoena.
Phil Schiliro, Waxman's spokesman, says NBC has been trying to get commitments that other committees will not issue subpoenas. Waxman has not made any effort so far to get a subpoena, Schiliro says, even on the committee on which he is the top Democrat, Government Reform. "Getting a subpoena is really the measure of last resort," Schiliro says. "We remain hopeful this will be worked out cooperatively."
- Paige Albiniak