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G.E.'s 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 story, click here!)

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 '60 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 Corp.. 

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, 'The 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).

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