RTNDA asks congressman to back off

The Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) fired off a letter to California Congressman Henry Waxman Tuesday demanding that he abandon his effort to force NBC to hand over an internal videotape supposedly showing GE chief Jack Welch attempting to interfere with NBC’s election-night coverage. NBC has denied that such a tape exists. The letter from RTNDA president Barbara Cochran suggested, however, that the existence of such a tape was not the issue — rather, that any “examination by a government official of the editorial decision-making processes of a major network is extremely disturbing and appears to be a completely unwarranted intrusion on the First Amendment protection of journalists.” Moreover, she noted, “editorial discussions of the kind that typically occur on Election Night must flow freely without fear of later inspection by government officials. Of all things, surely the decision-making on how to report election results should be free of governmental influence.” News reports on Tuesday said that Waxman hopes to reach an agreement with NBC without having to employ the Congressional subpoena power to go after the suspect tapes.