Local Politics

Alcoa asks for copies of UNC-TV footage

Posted July 9, 2010 4:26 p.m. EDT

— Footage gathered by the state's public television network for a series of reports about Alcoa Inc.'s activities along the Yadkin River is public record and should be made available to the company, an Alcoa spokesman said Friday.

Robert Brown, who represents the company, issued a news release Friday detailing Alcoa’s request for the footage.

Alcoa has asked “to inspect and copy all video footage as well as all unedited, edited and final versions, photographs, compilations, and related materials as well as all communications and/or correspondence sent or received by Eszter Vajda or any other employee or representative of UNC-TV since January 1, 2008” in connection with the production of the reports.

UNC-TV managers on Tuesday delivered the footage, data and records they had gathered about Alcoa's activities in Stanly County to a state Senate judiciary committee considering legislation to create a public trust responsible for managing the Yadkin River and its dams.

UNC-TV spokesman Steve Volstad said the network decided not to fight a subpoena from the committee because state law requires public agencies to turn over information sought by any legislative committee. Also, UNC-TV lawyers weren't sure withholding footage would fall under the state's 1999 press shield law, which protects journalists from having to disclose information not yet published or broadcast, he said.

The network's actions prompted Alcoa to file a public records request of its own.

In a statement issued Friday, Alcoa President Rick Bowen said, “Given the story’s inherent bias, the inclusion of undocumented claims against Alcoa, the fact that the segment aired with a disclaimer at the beginning and end acknowledging that for the first time ever the station abandoned its customary editorial review process, along with UNC-TV's decision to permit Sen. Fletcher Hartsell to use its unpublished video as a blatant political tool, we want to learn more about how this story was developed and who influenced the content.”

Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, heads the judiciary committee and is a top critic of Alcoa's use of the river.