NEW YORK – Hours after ABC News (search) thought it had bought exclusive rights to the only known video footage that shows both planes hitting the World Trade Center, a New York television station began showing a copy it said had been obtained for free.
The videotape, whose existence only recently became known, was shot by an immigrant construction worker making a sightseeing tape as he was riding in a sport utility vehicle from Brooklyn to Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001.
The first plane's impact was caught on tape as the vehicle was approaching the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. Upon emerging from the tunnel, cameraman Pavel Hlava (search) pointed the camera at the burning north tower and caught the second plane.
Only one other tape, by French filmmakers who had been making a documentary on firefighters, is known to exist that shows the first plane hitting the tower. No other known video shows both impacts.
ABC News said Wednesday it had reached a deal with Hlava's representatives to air the video, and showed a portion Thursday with an "exclusive" tag on "Good Morning America." Neither network spokesman Jeffrey Schneider nor Hlava lawyer Bob Reicher would say how much was paid.
However, New York 1, a cable news station, had begun airing earlier a copy of the tape it said it had obtained from Michael Cohen, Hlava's boss, who had been driving the SUV two years ago.
Cohen objected to selling the videotape.
"To me, it was blood money," he told New York 1. "It is profiting from someone else's tragedy, and my morals did not let me do it. Period."
ABC News had also received a copy of the video from Cohen last week, and aired a portion Sunday on "This Week" in New York. But after Hlava's lawyer objected, the network did not air the tape in the rest of the country and entered into negotiations for its use.
Walter Karling (search), a freelance photographer acting as an agent for Hlava, said he wanted to protect Hlava's right to the material.
"Any financial remuneration is of last and least importance," he said.
Rights to air the video were offered to both CBS and NBC News over the weekend, according to executives at both networks who spoke on condition of anonymity. At one network, the figure of $40,000 was mentioned. At another, talk of a six-figure fee was bandied about.
Both networks rejected the overtures.
Although the Hlava video is unique, all the networks have compelling footage of the second plane hitting the towers, the buildings burning and eventually collapsing. Because that video is upsetting to many viewers, the networks have used it very judiciously since after the first few days following the Sept. 11 attacks.
For that reason -- despite the curiosity value -- the monetary value of Hlava's tape was considered limited by some network executives because of limited opportunities to show it.
ABC News was interested "because it's a unique piece of video," Schneider said. "It's an important historical document."