‘Dateline’ hearing mulled

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) has ordered congressional staffers to review whether a public hearing is needed to investigate NBC’s embarrassing admission that it staged the crash of a General Motors pickup truck on “Dateline NBC.”

Dingell spokesman Dennis Fitzgibbons said the review was requested to determine “whether an oversight hearing is warranted.”

Dingell has not decided whether the sesh will be held, Fitzgibbons said.

The threat of a hearing can’t be good news for NBC brass, since the powerful Dingell, head of the House oversight and investigations subcommittee, has been tough on witnesses at congressional hearings. He is also regarded as one of the U.S. auto industry’s strongest allies.

On “Dateline NBC” Tuesday night, co-hosts Jane Pauley and Stone Phillips announced the settlement of a short-lived defamation suit filed by GM against the web, and admitted viewers should have been told that incendiary devices were attached to the GM pickup to ensure a fiery collision.

Congress is not the only D.C. venue in which NBC may find itself in trouble as a result of its trumped-up crash test. The Federal Communications Commission has a policy against “staged news events,” which, in theory, could cost a broadcast station its license.

However, FCC staffer Tom Dunlap yesterday conceded that a license revocation is unlikely as a result of the “Dateline NBC” report. More likely is the possibility that NBC’s owned-and-operated station could get “a slap on the wrist ,” per Dunlap.

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