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Networks Conclude Pictures of Chernobyl Were Phony

May 15, 1986

NEW YORK (AP) _ ABC and NBC said in their evening news broadcasts Wednesday that a videotape they broadcast two days earlier that purportedly showed the burning Chernobyl nuclear plant was fraudulent.

Investigations of the videotape, which came from a Yugoslav tourist, were begun after Italian television showed the pictures and began getting calls from viewers who said the pictures looked like those taken of a recent cement factory fire in Trieste, on the Italian-Yugoslav border, the networks said.

″We investigated that and found in fact it was Trieste,″ said anchorman Tom Brokaw on NBC’s ″Nightly News.″ ″We were had.″

″We and others were the victims of fraud,″ anchorman Peter Jennings said on ABC’s ″World News Tonight.″

Both networks said they obtained the pictures the day after the nuclear accident in the Soviet Union, even though the video was not shown until Monday. The tourist who delivered the pictures was not further identified.

Both networks reported Tuesday night that the authenticity of the photographs was under question and that the pictures were being investigated.

″We were badly misled, we misled you and as you can imagine we’re not very happy about it,″ Jennings said Wednesday. ″It’s one mistake we’ll try not to make again.″

The Italian network RAI said earlier Wednesday it concluded it had been victimized.

″On the basis of a report from our correspondent in Trieste who looked into this matter, we are certain that this (film) was a fake,″ said Filippo D’Onofrio, a RAI official.

Radio Moscow reported Wednesday that the networks had broadcast ″falsified film.″

Jennings said ABC purchased the tape from the tourist, but network spokesman Tom Goodman later said ″no money exchanged hands.″

The asking price for the pictures was $8,000 to $9,000, Goodman said. He did not immediately know the details of the arrangement or why the payment wasn’t made.

NBC spokesman Bill McAndrew was not home Wednesday evening when a reporter called to ask how his network acquired the tape.

According to The New York Times, the footage was sold to the American networks by an Italian photo agency called Albatross. ABC and NBC together agreed to pay Albatross $11,000, but the networks said no money changed hands, the paper reported in Thursday editions.

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