UNC TV Report on Alcoa Turned Over

UNC’s public television station has complied with a subpoena from the General Assembly and turned over raw video footage from a forthcoming series about Alcoa’s impact on the Yadkin River.  WFAE’s Julie Rose has more:

North Carolina has a “shield law” meant to protect the media from being forced to hand over information about their sources to the government. 

But in this case, UNC-TV spokesman Steve Volstad says the station was in a tight spot because it kind of is the government:

“We are a state agency because we’re part of the university system,” says Volstad.  “State law requires state agencies to comply with requests for information from the General Assembly.”

UNC-TV also gets about half it’s funding from the General Assembly. 

Volstad says the station got conflicting advice from attorneys about whether the state’s shield law would trump a subpoena by state lawmakers.  And he says they didn’t have time to build a legal defense, because the deadline to turn over the tapes was noon yesterday.

“Given the deadline involved and the uncertainty on that topic, we felt we really had no choice in the matter,” says Volstad. 

Volstad says the station delivered 13-hours of unedited interviews to Senator Fletcher Hartsell’s office Monday. 

Hartsell subpoena the footage because he’s trying to muster support for a bill that would place Alcoa’s Yadkin River dams under state control.  He is concerned that the final edited version of UNC-TV’s series might downplay the environmental contamination for which he believes Alcoa is responsible. 

Volstad says UNC-TV is committed to airing an accurate story and will refrain from exercising customary editorial review of the reporter’s work before it airs.

“So there wouldn’t be the issue of whether there was any inappropriate influence being exercised in what we put on the air,” explains Volstad.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will review raw footage from UNC-TV in a public meeting Tuesday at 9 a.m.  UNC-TV plans to start airing the finished series Tuesday night on its program North Carolina Now.

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