Iranian television tonight broadcast film of the Easter services inside the occupied U.S. Embassy here in which several hostages pleaded to be released and read emotional messages to their families in the United States.
But in a story that might be dubbed "The Selling of the Hostages," the film quickly became the subject of hard haggling between theIranian revolutionaries, always eager for cash, and highly competitive U.S. television networks.
Finally, 24 minutes of film, shot and edited by Iranians under the supervision of the embassy militants, changed hands for a total of $36,000 with the three U.S. networks each paying $12,000.
[Excerpts from the Iranian
The militants, who invited three U.S. clergymen, the resident papal nuncio, two Iranian ministers and Greek Catholic Archbishop Hilarion Capucci to hold last Sunday's services, also extracted a high price for still, color photographs of the ceremonies and the hostages.
Three French photo agencies split the $3,000 cost of the pictures, which also were shot by Iranian photographers.
Even the U.S. clerical group seemed to want to get into the act. Explaining that the Kansas-based Committee for American-Iranian Crisis Resolution that sponsored the clerics' trip was "in a big financial bind," the leader of the delegation asked a reporter about the possibility of selling black-and-white photographs to which he had access.
"I don't know if this is a way to help funding or not," the clergyman said.
The film broadcast on Iranian television showed American hostages participating in services with the clergymen, talking to them in guarded terms. With as many as a dozen Iranian militants standing in the background, they told their parents, wives and children not to worry.
Some of the captives laughed and smiled with the clergy during the visit, but others appeared depressed or had tears in their eyes as they expressed their longing for freedom or addressed their relatives from captivity.
After seeing some of the film, the U.S. clergymen added one more name to the list of those hostages seen during the visit, bringing the total to 32 out of the 50 held captive.
Most of the hostages who have been accused of spying or being disruptive were not shown in the footage, and the U.S ministers still were unable to confirm whether the four other visitors saw any of them. These hostages are held in solitary confinement in the embassy basement, according to an Iranian Revolutionary Council member who visited them last month.
The eldest hostage, Robert C. Ode 64, was shown reading an Easter message to his wife and family with tears welling in his eyes.
"We could use a little more fresh air," he told Capucci, who was imprisoned by the Israelis several years ago for smuggling guns to Palestinian guerrillas. Asked by Capucci if there were anything he needed, Ode laughed derisively, and said, "We need to get out of here, that's what we need. We need more than some prayers, we need action.
Embassy press, attache Barry Rosen appeared healthier and more relaxed than when he was shown on television a month ago. He told his mother and his wife Barbara to "hang on" and "don't worry" and thanked Americans for writing to him.
"Only in the last month have we been able to talk to each other, and that has helped tremendously," Rosen said. Offered a plate of fruit, he added, "I haven't seen an apple since Christmas."
A young Marine complained of receiving only two letters from home so far this year, but said he was "very happy" with the clergymen's visit.
The film was shown on Iranian television in two segments totaling about 40 minutes.
According to network journalists Iranians first offered 48 minutes of film for a total of $75,000--$25,000 from each of three major U.S. networks. fU.S. executives refused to pay that much, however, journalists said, and a counter offer was made of $36,000 for 24 minutes of film.
The film was edited in the state-run Iranian television station's studios from four hours of footage, network journalists said.
The networks insisted on having their representatives in Tehran to view the film before deciding whether to buy it, but they had no control over the original shooting, processing, editing and transmission.
On Iranian television, viewers were not informed that they were not seeing all of the hostages, and a Persian narrative that tracked over the hostages' conversations described several of them as having participated in illicit activities in Iran and other foreign posts.
The Iranian narrative was not included in the film that the networks bought, journalists said.
In addition to Rosen and Ode, the other 30 hostages who were either seen by the visiting U.S. clergymen or shown in Iranian television were identified by journalists as:
Charles Jones, embassy teletype operator and the only remaining black hostage; David M. Roeder, deputy Air Force attache; Elizateth Ann Swift, political officer; Kathryn Koob, director of a U.S.-sponsored academic society; Richard I. Queen, vice consul; Bruce German, budget officer; and William Gallegos, a marine guard.
Also, Paul M. Needham, Air Force captain; Rodney V. Sickmann, a Marine guard; Donald R. Hohman, Army sergeant; Don A. Sharer, a Navy commander; Jerry Plotkin, a Los Angeles businessman; Gary Lee, a General Services officer; Gregory A. Persinger, a Marine guard; Bert C. Moore, administrative counselor; Kevin J. Hermening, a Marine guard; William F. Keough, Jr., school administrator; John D. McKeel, Jr., a Marine guard; Robert O. Blucker, economic officer; and Paul E. Lewis, a Marine guard.
Frederick Lee Kupke, a communications employe; Moorehead C. Kennedy, Jr., economic and commercial officer; John E. Graves, public affairs officer; Joseph Subic, Jr., Army staff sergeant; Steven Lauterbach, administrative employe; Joseph M. Hall, Army warrant officer; Robert A. Engelmann, Navy lieutenant commander; Thomas E. Schaefer, Air Force colonel and the military attache; John W. Limbert, Jr., political officer; and Charles W. Scott, Army colonel.