Undisclosed NBC Conflict of Interest Again Arises in Annual 'Green Week'

On Sunday, NBC Universal launched its annual "Green Week," as part of the company's "Green is Universal" environmental awareness campaign.

As NBC embarks on yet another week of "environmentally themed programming," it falls to media watchdogs to point out the massive conflict presented by NBC parent company General Electric's significant financial interests in the policies "Green Week" indirectly advances.

GE stands to make millions from Democrats' "clean energy" agenda. The company has invested massive amounts of money in technology that can only be profitable through government intervention or subsidization.

Chief among federal policies from which GE would enormously benefit is cap and trade.

A cap and trade regime would establish a previously-nonexistent market for carbon credits. GE, which was a lead lobbying force for cap and trade and is a member of the pro-C&T "Climate Action Partnership," established what it called "Greenhouse Gas Services," a venture that invested in carbon credits. Those credits are completely useless unless the government, through a cap and trade scheme, establishes a market for them by requiring that all carbon-emitting businesses buy those credits to be allowed to pollute.

In other words, GE spent millions of dollars on a venture whose profitability depends on policies that its media arm, NBC Universal, shills for under the guise of "environmental awareness."

And GE's financial stake in left-wing climate legislation goes far beyond the current political nonstarter of cap and trade. The Washington Examiner's Tim Carney has reported extensively on GE's investments in "green" technology:

GE spends millions lobbying to protect and expand the cornucopia of wind subsidies that includes a "production tax credit" for wind farms, government mandates on utilities to buy wind power and local subsidies. In one case in upstate New York, the GE turbines will be powering a wind farm completed using eminent domain.

GE’s coal gasification, solar power generation, electric cars and biodiesel businesses are the same: Consumers and investors acting with their own money would not patronize these technologies, but Congress, acting with your money, will. GE’s $20 million annual lobbying budget sees to it.

GE has also launched a venture dealing in "greenhouse gas credits," which are literally worthless until Congress starts limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Throw in the expensive but unattractive light bulbs they’ve convinced Congress to mandate, and the pattern is clear.

Carney also noted that GE "has hitched its profits to its lobbying successes." Success in lobbying is of course synonymous with success in getting legislation through Congress. And building public support for such legislation is a fundamental element of getting that legislation passed.

But the innocent viewer of NBC isn’t informed of the network’s vested interest in environmental laws. He is just fed a parade of beautiful celebrities talking about the virtues and necessity of "going green." If David Schwimmer and Alicia Silverstone can convince you to become an environmentalist, then GE has "grassroots" demand for the federal policies that will enrich it.

And lo and behold, one day into "Green Week," MSNBC's Contessa Brewer - ostensibly a purveyor of "straight news" - took to the air to demand the federal government force a left-wing "green" agenda on the country.

As NB's Kyle Drennen reported Tuesday, Brewer claimed "progress" necessitates federal intervention on behalf of the planet: "until government here...sets policy, until government says these are the standards that everyone has to aspire to, we're not really making progress."

GE execs have reportedly exerted pressure on NBC employees to toe the line on the parent company's political (and, by virtue of its emphasis on lobbying, economic) interests. Though no GE employee has confirmed this exchange, former CNBC reporter Charlie Gasparino has claimed that General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt himself told CNBC employees they were being too tough on President Barack Obama:

There was - and it turned out to be true, I think the New York Post reported it - there was this issue where Jeff Immelt, chairman of GE, which used to own NBC Universal, called in some of the senior staff, and clearly was worried, according to the people I spoke to who were in that meeting, about the possibility that we were becoming too anti-administration. This was when the Obama administration first took over, and some of the spending plans came out, and the markets reacted…

They will deny it, officially, but from what I understand, and I spoke with people there, people got called into this meeting, and they were basically, not exactly read the riot act, but the question of whether they were being fair to the president was brought up. I've never heard that before.

This exchange was also before cap and trade died in the Senate, so GE was still holding out hope that its massive investments both in clean energy technology and in the carbon permit trading infrastructure would pay off big.

None of these facts made it into Sunday's NBC Universal press release, which announced Green Week's full-court press on environmental issues:

This year's Green Week will showcase NBC News reports from every corner of the company's portfolio. NBC Nightly News' Environmental Correspondent Anne Thompson will host environmental segments throughout the week, while MSNBC's "Morning Joe" will showcase a special five-day series to educate America on dependence on foreign oil and alternative sources of energy. NBC's "TODAY" will bring it home with a segment on green cleaning products and highlights on how to reduce home energy and water use, and NBC Local Media stations across the country will feature stories about green in their communities. Rounding out the week, NBC News' Brian Williams will conduct an exclusive one-on-one interview on Friday November 19th with Prince Charles, who talks about his efforts to prevent global warming and why he wants to be "the defender of nature." The interview will lead into the television premiere of "Harmony," Prince Charles' new environmental documentary.

Also premiering during Green Week are the latest "The More You Know" green-themed PSAs. Talent across NBCU properties including Jason Ritter from NBC's "The Event," Jackie Warner from Bravo's "Thintervention," Matt Bomer from USA's "White Collar," Josh Gates from Syfy's "Destination Truth," Mel B. from Oxygen's "Dance Your A** Off," and CNBC's Maria Bartiromo will encourage viewers to adopt sustainable habits. Topics include how to reduce energy usage, lower fuel consumption and recycle unwanted items.

By advancing the mainstream "green" agenda, NBC is serving the financial interests of the parent company. That is a fact that should be disclosed to the network's - and its cable subsidiaries' - viewers.

For a group that routinely trumpets its concern for the separation of media and politics, the American journalism community has been conspicuously silent on the GE/NBC conflict.

In fact, as the federal government weighs Comcast's bid to purchase NBC Universal, a number of lefties have been shouting about undue political influence on news reporting there, while still managing to avoid any mention of GE's unseemly involvement in its media arm's reporting operations.

Senator Berine Sanders, the self-identified socialist representing Vermont, recently called for the federal government to block Comcast's offer. "We do not need another media giant run by a Republican supporter of George W. Bush," Sanders said.

One Huffington Post columnist warned that Comcast's ownership of NBC would lead to network execs who "will be even less welcoming than the current one[s] to commentators that rock the boat." The columnist singled out Comcast COO Steve Burke:

As a top science adviser to President Bush, did Burke condone administration efforts to bury scientific findings that challenged official policy? What would he do when comments or reporting by Olbermann or Maddow challenge Comcast's corporate dogma?

Of course it all makes sense once you realize that to Sanders et al. "corporate dogma" is only a problem when it reinforces a conservative agenda. When it backstops liberal policy, as NBC Universal's bottom-line-oriented "Green Week" does, it's not worth a mention.

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