Jack Welch to appear on
CBS' '60 Minutes'
With just weeks remaining before the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency is set to issue its big decision regarding the Hudson
River, General Electric's chairman, John F. (Jack) Welch, Jr., has made
the surprising move to grant an interview to the C.B.S. television news
program '60 Minutes'.
(To visit the '60 Minutes' Web site and its accompanying
Welch rarely grants interviews
It is considered unusual because camera-shy Dr. Welch and his tightly-
controlled G.E. public relations machine rarely grant requests from news
organizations to film interviews with the Company's chief executive officer,
let alone in the type of format favored by '60 Minutes'.
C.B.S. producers usually opt for an open-ended, free-wheeling discussion
format punctuated by a series of no-holds-barred questions by a probing
interviewer. G.E.'s zealously tight-lipped public relations unit, with
its tendency towards carefully scripted responses, usually nixes filmed
interviews of corporate officials where final editorial control before
broadcast cannot be assured.
Why did G.E. choose C.B.S. over N.B.C.?
Another reason that Dr. Welch's interview by C.B.S. is considered unusual
is because G.E. owns rival television network N.B.C.. G.E. has not publicly
disclosed why Dr. Welch intentionally chose '60 Minutes' as the
venue for such a rare broadcast interview rather than using N.B.C.'s own
Minutes' clone, 'Dateline'.
Interview tied to anti-dredging campaign?
G.E. has also left unspoken whether Dr. Welch's decision to grant his
interview is tied to the Company's current massive lobbying effort and
$20+ million multi-media advertising campaign to persuade E.P.A. not to
force the Company to dredge the Hudson River. E.P.A. is set to issue
its decision by the end of the year.
Editorial independence at '60 Minutes'
'60 Minutes' generally gets high marks for maintaining editorial
independence, though there have been some well-publicized breaches.
The most recent concerned reporter Mike Wallace's summer 1995 interview
with Jeffrey Wigand, a vice president at Brown & Williamson Tobacco
Wigand's 'whistleblower' revelations to Wallace about the tobacco industry
were kept off-the-air until February 1996 by orders of then C.B.S. chairman
Lawrence Tisch out of concern for retaliatory litigation by B&W that
might affect the price and salability of the then for sale network.
The story of the Wigand matter and the failure by executives at '60
Minutes' and at C.B.S. News to stand up for journalistic independence
in the face of corporate pressure was later made into a popular movie,
Insider', released in November 1999 and starring Al Pacino, Russell
Crowe and Christopher Plummer.
Welch interview to air this Sunday evening
Dr. Welch's appearance on '60 Minutes' is scheduled for broadcast
this Sunday, October 29 at 7 P.M. (EST).