Tuning in to TV: Soldier’s widow files suit over images in documentary

The widow of a U.S. soldier killed in a blast in Afghanistan has sued Fox Networks and the National Geographic Society over a documentary that showed her husband and family.

The documentary about a combat hospital called “Inside Afghan ER” featured Staff Sgt. Kevin Casey Roberts, who was serving with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division when an improvised explosive device struck his vehicle in Khost province in Afghanistan in 2008.

A year after his death, his wife, Donnice Roberts, got a call from a service member in Germany who had seen her husband in the documentary. According to the lawsuit filed in Texas on Nov. 1, she did not know there was video footage related to her husband’s death or that the documentary existed, The Associated Press reports.

She is seeking at least $750,000 in damages and wants a judge to prevent the film from airing again. She also wants the cable network to stop using images of military families without their permission.

The documentary was produced and distributed by the National Geographic Society and was promoted and distributed by Fox Networks Inc. and Fox Entertainment Group Inc., which owns part of the NatGeo network.

Scott Grogin, a spokesman for Fox Networks Group, said the film never aired in the United States. Instead, it aired on the National Geographic International channel.

Mrs. Roberts said an image of herself and her children that had been stored on her husband’s laptop was used in the documentary during scenes about his memorial service in Afghanistan. Mr. Grogin said the image of the family members was on display at the memorial service and was not taken from any personal computer or family archives as claimed in the lawsuit.

“The filmmakers got permission from the military to shoot the documentary, and as part and parcel of that, were granted permission to shoot the memorial service,” he said.

No one immediately answered the phone or email for National Geographic.

Mrs. Roberts said she suffered mental anguish, shock and sadness from learning about the documentary.

“Moreover, Mrs. Roberts has fears and concerns that her minor children are depicted as the children of a warrior in the war on terror, which is fought by fanatic, radical individuals who have shown a propensity and desire to kill Americans, including women and children,” the lawsuit said.

The Roberts family has appeared in a “Today” show segment about gifts donated to the family, but Mrs. Roberts said she knew how the images would be used and gave permission because the family was proud of her husband’s service and sacrifice.

‘Today’ executive producer to be replaced

NBC is changing the backstage leadership at its struggling “Today” show, which has consistently been behind ABC’s “Good Morning America” in the ratings since replacing Ann Curry as an anchor this summer.

An NBC executive who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the plan is not finalized said Monday that Jim Bell will be replaced as the show’s executive producer. Veteran NBC News executive Alexandra Wallace will oversee management of “Today” and a search is under way for Mr. Bell’s successor.

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