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TV Note: NBC going full speed with Lynch biopic

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Like that Marine who draped the American flag over the face of the Saddam Hussein statue in Baghdad, NBC has draped its multicolored peacock over the Jessica Lynch story in Hollywood. The network will need to tread carefully or the negative reactions may be similar.

Word got out last week that NBC was rushing ahead with a TV movie about Lynch, regardless of whether it could secure rights to her story from her family. While NBC says it's attempting to obtain official rights, it is willing to proceed without them if necessary, basing its script on news reports and other public information.

Lynch, a 19-year-old private first class from Palestine, W.Va., joined the Army just out of high school to earn enough money to attend college. She was captured March 23 after her 507th Maintenance Company convoy was ambushed near the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. U.S. commandos rescued her from a hospital there the night of April 1; they'd been tipped off as to her whereabouts by an Iraqi lawyer who risked his life and those of his family to help her.

If other networks are dissuaded by NBC's approach from pursuing the story as a TV movie, the value of Lynch's TV rights might be diminished.

"That shouldn't be a great issue," producer Dan Paulson said of the rights. Paulson -- whose credits include TV movies "Dead in a Heartbeat," "Victims for Victims: The Theresa Saldana Story," "A Gift of Love: The Daniel Huffman Story" and "Bonanno: A Godfather's Story" -- has been tapped to helm the NBC project.

"We have every intention of locking [the rights] up, and as far as I know NBC is the only network that is actively pursuing this story. We felt in the interest of time we had to move quickly so we could get it on the air quickly; it's a very current story."

(Lisa deMoraes, The Washington Post)

CNN under fire

Gunfire erupted between Iraqi forces and a guard hired to protect a CNN crew, a development that made one media commentator worry about the risks of having journalists protected by armed escorts.

Correspondent Brent Sadler was driving through Tikrit, one of the last strongholds of Saddam Hussein loyalists, in a seven-vehicle CNN convoy Sunday when they decided to leave because they could feel "hostility rising," he said.

They were fired upon with automatic weapons while just outside of Tikrit, he said. An Iraqi Kurd guard traveling with the CNN crew returned fire as the vehicles sped away.

The gunfight involving Sadler's guard was believed to be the first time armed protectors of a CNN crew had to use a weapon. Most journalists adhere to Geneva Conventions rules that reporters not openly carry weapons in war zones, although several news organizations have hired armed guards.

CNN repeatedly ran video of the incident Sunday that showed the roadside passing by from the car's perspective, then the sound of rapid-fire guns and the camera being pointed to the sky as its operator ducked for cover.

"These shots weren't intended to scare us," Sadler later said. "They were intended to kill us."

The guard was grazed by a bullet, said Matthew Furman, CNN spokesman. A CNN producer was hit by shattered glass.

CNN noted that Sadler was in a convoy clearly marked as containing journalists and that the Iraqis fired first. In a dangerous place for reporters, CNN supports what its guard did, Furman said.

(David Bauder, Associated Press)

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