Fun_People Archive
14 Nov
60 Minutes - back down, back up, or back away?

Date: Tue, 14 Nov 95 11:28:34 -0800
From: Peter Langston <psl>
To: Fun_People
Subject: 60 Minutes - back down, back up, or back away?

Forwarded-by: (Keith Bostic)

CBS lawyers have ordered that an on-the-record interview with a former
tobacco company executive not be included in an upcoming edition of "60
Minutes."  According to network sources lawyers were concerned that by
broadcasting the interview, in which the executive criticizes the
tobacco industry, CBS might be held legally responsible because of
an existing agreement between the interviewee and Brown & Williamson
tobacco not to disclose internal information.  A spokesman for the
tobacco company said that Brown & Williamson had had no contact with
CBS' legal department in regards to the piece.  (SF Chronicle)

CBS continued last week to deny reports that it pulled an interview from
yesterday's edition of "60 Minutes" out of fear of legal action from a
tobacco company.  "We couldn't interview this guy about anything that he
knew while he was in the employ of a certain tobacco company," said the
show's executive producer Don Hewitt.  "But we found out we could use
anything he learned after he left the employ of the tobacco company."
According to Hewitt, he realized he could run an equally compelling
story about "the length that tobacco companies go to protect themselves
from you knowing what they know."  The former tobacco executive who had
agreed to be interviewed for the story said that his life was
threatened when it was learned he planned to reveal internal workings of
his former employer. (NY Post)

Perhaps too close on the heels of the network's decision to pull an
anti-tobacco interview from "60 Minutes," the CBS affiliate in Los
Angeles (KCBS/Channel 2) has stopped airing a state-sponsored anti-
smoking ad after only five weeks. The commercial, titled "Hooked,"
featured an actor wearing a business suit and fishing alone from the end
of a dock.  As he pulls fish after fish from the water, a narrator
describes how the nicotine in cigarettes makes them addictive. The
commercial, aimed at teenagers, ends with a close-up of the man's
nicotine-stained teeth.  Kim Belshe, director of the state Department of
Health Services, said that she is "disappointed and troubled by the
decision," and that no other stations in the state have complained
and/or canceled the ad. Sybil MacDonald, a spokeswoman for KCBS said
that the station had a problem with one line in the ad: "The more
nicotine cigarettes have, the more hooked you'll be."  MacDonald said
that the decision to ax the ad was not a result of outside pressure but
"management felt (the line) implied (nicotine) spiking, which has been
an extremely contentious issue."  (LA Times)

CBS' Dan Rather is the latest to criticize his network's lawyers for
commanding "60 Minutes" to scrap an interview with a former tobacco
industry insider.  "I don't like the way this makes us seem," he told
radio talk-show host Don Imus last week.  "If you believe in the
reporting, let them take you to court.  Let's face it, the lawyers never
want you to run a story.  They can't get in trouble if you don't
run a story.  I don't like it any time we back down, back up, back
away."  (LA Times)

Speaking Thursday on CNBC's "Tim Russert" show, CBS news legend Walter
Cronkite also spoke out against the network's decision to cut the
interview.  "(Broadcasters and Publishers) who permit such pressure to
be exerted clearly are thinking purely of their pocketbooks...and not
thinking of the people's right and necessity to know, and I abhor
it," he said.  (LA Times)

Finally, "60 Minutes" host Mike Wallace took a swing at CBS Sunday with
a brief statement at the end of the highly publicized tobacco piece.
"We are dismayed the management has seen fit to give in," he said.
Wallace said that he and the rest of the "60 Minutes" team hoped to
continue the show's investigative tradition despite last Sunday's
setback.  The final report included only bits and pieces of the former
tobacco executive's interview.  (NY Daily News)

[=] © 1995 Peter Langston []