The Stingray Links - Peter Lance Press Release 6/14/01



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Investigative Reporter Fights CBS Deposition Subpoena

Los Angeles 6/14/01 The multi-million dollar litigation over charges by a former Castaway that CBS’s blockbuster series SURVIVOR was “rigged,” entered a new phase today when the investigative 

reporter who first broke the rigging charges in a book last fall, challenged a 13 page subpoena 

from CBS’s lawyers attempting to force him to divulge the confidential sources behind his book.


In a 10 page response to White, O’Conner, Curry, Gatti & Avanzado, lawyers for CBS and SEG, Inc. 

(Survivor Entertainment Group) former ABC News correspondent Peter Lance alleged that 

CBS/SEG’s attempts to discover his reporter’s work product and sources amounted to “harassment.”

On May 10th, CBS/SEG served Lance with a subpoena to appear at a sworn deposition set 

for June 25th.

Lance first revealed the SURVIVOR rigging allegations by ex-Castaways Stacey Stillman and Dirk 

Been last Fall in his investigative book THE STINGRAY LETHAL TACTICS OF THE SOLE 

SURVIVOR (Shadow Lawn Press) ISBN: 1885840039.

The charges were corroborated February 5th when Ms. Stillman sued CBS in San Francisco Superior 

Court and later CBS/SEG cited her interviews with Lance for THE STINGRAY in their five-million 

dollar lawsuit against Ms. Stillman filed in Los Angeles Superior Court February 20th.
Today, attorneys for the five-time Emmy winning investigative reporter, charged that CBS/SEG’s 

refusal to depose Lance in both pending SURVIVOR cases (something they did for non-party 

witness Dirk Been) was further evidence of a campaign  of intimidation


 “CBS/SEG would be hard pressed to articulate any basis for subjecting Mr. Lance to multiple 

depositions, other than a desire to harass him,” wrote Lance’s attorney Jeff Feldman in a four-page 

cover letter to Holly Sadlon a lawyer for CBS/SEG at the White, O’Conner firm.

 “Mr. Lance… is a non-party witness in this case,” wrote Feldman. “The breathtaking scope of 

the subpoena that CBS/SEG served on Mr. Lance, seems designed in large part to harass him…. 

most of the documents the subpoena seeks production of are protected by legal privilege. For that 

reason, much of the subpoena is unenforceable.”
Included in the reams of files CBS/SEG has demanded that Lance produce are:

 “Any and all documents which refer, reflect or relate to any communications between (Lance) and 

any person including, but not limited to notes, memoranda, letters, facsimiles, e-mails, telephone 

records and telephone messages, including any and all drafts, concerning: (a) this litigation (b) Survivor, 

(c) the SEG action; (d) CBS; (e) VIACOM; (f) Burnett; (g) Survivor Productions Inc; (h) Survivor 

Productions LLC; or (i) SEG.”

The “Burnett” referred to is SURVIVOR Executive Producer Mark Burnett, who Castaway Dirk 

Been swore “influenced” his vote against Stillman on Day 9 of SURVIVOR’s first season.

 “With this all-encompassing subpoena,” said Lance “CBS, the network of 60 Minutes, is attempting 

to uncover every single confidential source and all of the reporting that went into the writing of 

THE STINGRAY, including my ongoing coverage of the Survivor rigging scandal from the moment 

I first started talking to Richard Hatch a year ago until the moment the subpoena was issued on 

May 10th, 2001.

“My lawyers and I have already spent days preparing a response. During that time I’ve had to 

drop my on-going coverage of the Survivor scandal. There’s no doubt that this overly broad 

subpoena is an attempt by CBS to take me off this story.”

“California and federal law… recognize a common-law privilege, which, among other things prevents

any party from forcing a journalist to reveal unpublished material, research material and confidential

information  and sources,” wrote Feldman in his letter to lawyers for CBS/SEG. “…unless and until

that party can demonstrate a compelling need and that it has exhausted it’s ability to obtain the sought

material from alternative, non-privilege sources,”

“Right now, as far as we know, I’m the only person (other than Dirk Been) to be set for a deposition

in this matter,” said Lance, “not Stacey Stillman, not Mark Burnett, nor any officials of CBS.  The 

question is why subject the reporter who first broke the Survivor rigging allegations to this level of

legal intimidation unless CBS is determined to chill him from covering the ongoing story?” 


On May 26th, represented by Feldman, Lance filed a Motion to Unseal Dirk Been’s deposition in the

litigation after it had been deemed sealed and kept secret by lawyers for Stillman and CBS/SEG. At a 

hearing on Lance’s Motion May 17th, the Judge in the CBS/SEG vs. Stillman case ruled that the

deposition should not be sealed and CBS finally made it public May 25th.

Among the revelations was Been’s sworn assertion that he had originally intended to vote Ex-Navy 

SEAL Rudy Boesch off the island of Pulau Tiga in Episode Three of SURVIVOR One, but after 

Burnett intervened with him and Castaway Dr. Sean Kenniff suggesting they form an alliance against

Ms. Stillman, he changed his vote.
In recent weeks CBS had taken an aggressive stance against another network news organization critical

of SURVIVOR. After Lance shared his findings in two investigative segments of DATELINE NBC 

(May 14th and June 1st) CBS accused NBC (in the words of a recent LA. TIMES story) of  

“unleashing it’s news division on the CBS program “Survivor” to service NBC’s corporate ends.”

 "Whatever the reality, the perception is that 'Dateline' is basing its editorial decisions on the financial

 interests of NBC Entertainment,” wrote CBS in a statement released June 1st. “We'd like to think

 that CBS News would never be used to attack a competitor."

Ironically, Lance’s attorney cited the same stellar reputation of CBS News in his letter today to 

CBS/SEG:      “CBS has a long and distinguished history of working to protect the First Amendment’s

freedom of the press,” wrote Feldman. “It would be a sad day and a long-remembered moment in 

American journalism, if the legacy of Edward R. Murrow, Fred Friendly, and Walter Cronkite is 

sullied by a short-sighted effort by the network to trample a journalist’s proper assertion of those

same rights and freedoms.”


For more information, please call: 310-810-1120 fax: 310-471-5843 or email:


Click here to download the Peter Lance Response to CBS