Republicans probe NBC over Beijing Olympics coverage

Republican leaders from the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to NBC Universal executives expressing concerns about “the extent of influence the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) may have over NBCUniversal’s coverage of the games.”

Why is this important: The CCP’s human rights abuses have come under scrutiny ahead of this year’s Winter Games in Beijing. Last year, activists sent a letter to NBC executives urging the network to cancel plans to cover the Olympics.

  • NBC paid $7.75 billion for exclusive broadcast rights to the Olympics in the United States through 2032. This money contributes about 40% of the International Olympic Committee’s revenue. NBC itself will typically earn over $1 billion selling advertising sponsorships against Olympics content.

Details: The letter, addressed to NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell and NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel, asks NBC how it plans to use its “investment in the Games to shed light on the history of human rights abuses.” man in China”.

  • “Given China’s history of censorship and government control, and the fact that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stands to benefit financially from NBCUniversal’s coverage of the games, we are concerned about the extent of the influence the CCP could have on NBCUniversal’s coverage of games,” it reads.
  • Signed by Republican Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Bob Latta, the letter asks NBC to provide written responses and any related documentation to several questions about its Energy and Commerce Committee coverage by Feb. 7.
  • One question asks whether the IOC or the CCP took any action to influence NBC’s coverage of the Games “in regards to reported human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province.”
  • Another asks if the IOC or CCP have asked NBC to make any changes “to how they are covered or advertised on NBCUniversal programming.”
  • Lawmakers also want to know whether, as part of NBC’s rights to broadcast the Games, the network is “in any way excluded by the IOC or CCP from coverage that would be critical of the PRC government.”

The big picture: China’s human rights record has put pressure on all companies and organizations dealing with the Games.

  • Some advertisers have been less vocal about their involvement in this year’s Olympics according to the Wall Street Journal.
  • Last week, NBC executives noted that geopolitical tensions with China will create challenges for the network.
  • “We understand that there are difficult issues regarding the host country, so our coverage will provide insight into China’s place in the world and the geopolitical context in which these games are taking place, but the athletes remain at the center of our coverage,” said Molly Solomon, executive producer and president of NBC Olympics Production at a media event.
  • NBC will bring two Chinese analysts, journalist Andy Brown and Chinese cultural historian Jing Tsu, to join the anchors on the ground during its primetime coverage.
  • NBC did not respond to an immediate request for comment.

Note: NBC is an investor in Axios and Satpal Brainch, President of CNBC Business News Worldwide, is a member of the Axios Board of Directors.

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