By: Joe Strupp
NBC News will not have to turn over a videotape made by “Dateline” producers for a story about the Louisiana state police that never aired, a federal appeals court ruled last week.
The June 1 decision reverses a previous ruling ordering the network to make the tape available to an Hispanic couple who are suing a Louisiana deputy sheriff.
The Second U.S. Court of Appeals ruled last September that NBC must give up the videotape, which reportedly shows an officer pulling over a car, says The Associated Press. The tape was made during a “Dateline” investigation into allegations that police were pulling over cars based on a driver’s race, nationality, or out-of-state plates.
Lawyers for NBC argued that the First Amendment provided “qualified privilege” on material reporters receive from nonconfidential sources. The lower court disagreed, and the ruling drew criticism from news outlets, which complained that it would set a precedent for lawyers to obtain reporter’s unpublished notes and video in the future.
But the court vacated its decision, declaring that it needed to rehear the issue. A new hearing date has not been set.
“We’re looking for further illumination of the issue from the Court of Appeals,” says NBC attorney Susan Weiner. “Certainly, from the journalist’s perspective, the law in the circuit court prior to this decision has appeared to recognize greater protection for journalists’ work products, notes and tapes.”
The latest decision also helped to reverse a previous contempt-of-court order against The Wall Street Journal on an unrelated matter. The Journal case involved a subpoena for a reporter’s notes related to a securities action brought about by stockholders of Centennial Technologies Inc. But the contempt order was changed based on the NBC decision.
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