NBC's Refusal to Cover GE Tax Scandal Reinforces Perception of Liberal Bias

March 31st, 2011 9:44 AM

NewsBusters and others have, on many occasions, pointed out the apparent conflict of interest in NBC-Universal and its various media affiliates (both news and entertainment) pushing for policies that would benefit General Electric, who until recently was the majority stakeholder in NBC-U, and still retains a large portion of ownership over the company.

Recent events seem to vindicate that concern. Since the New York Times reported last week that GE paid no taxes in the United States, no "straight news" reporter on NBC has yet mentioned the controversy. NBC's silence suggests, to some, that its news-gathering operation is, to some extent, subordinated to the interests of its parent company.

And though many on the left are disposed to label that slant a bias to the right (since many liberals simple assume that corporations are, by their nature, conservative in their politics), many of GE's ventures not only align with liberal policy objectives, but often use the power of the state, enhanced by liberal economic policies, to promote their own economic agenda.

For evidence that GE sees its own interests as aligned with the current administration, one need look no further than its CEO Jeffrey Immelt. Mere days after President Obama's inauguration, Immelt sent a letter to shareholders outlining, in no vague terms, the company's emerging partnership with the federal government (emphasis mine).

...I believe we are going through more than a cycle. The global economy, and capitalism, will be “reset” in several important ways.

The interaction between government and business will change forever. In a reset economy, the government will be a regulator; and also an industry policy champion, a financier, and a key partner.

This partnership Immelt referred to extended to some key legislative priorities advanced by the president and congressional Democrats during the early stages of the Obama administration. Cap and trade represented perhaps the greatest potential political windfall for GE, and the company did not hesitate to exert its influence in Washington to advance its interests through cap and trade legislation.

Since 1998, GE has been by far the largest lobbying force among private companies in Washington, having spent more than $236 million on its lobbying shop since then. The influence it welds as a result led to a key role for GE in actually writing the House cap and trade bill. "[W]e were able to work closely with key authors of the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill, recently passed by the House of Representatives," GE executive John Rice told employees in an August, 2009 letter. "If this bill is enacted into law it would benefit many GE businesses."

"The intersection between GE's interests and government action is clearer than ever," Rice wrote. With a Democrat in the White House, the party's large majorities in Congress, and a liberal legislative agenda on the docket, GE's financial interests were aligned, more than ever before, with the federal government's agenda.

This is all to say that a bias towards the interests of General Electric is a liberal bias. The company advances and benefits from leftist policies, so to say that a news outlet supports GE's political interests is to say that it supports leftist policies.

Thus far only NBC-affiliated cable commentators have noted the lack of taxes paid by GE. NBC-U insists it was purely innocent editorial decision not to cover the story. But as Jon Stewart pointed out, Brian Williams still found time to report on the Oxford English Dictionary's official addition of OMG. The GE story would seem to be bigger news.

NBC's silence lends weight to claims that GE's media arm serves the company's financial interests to some extent. Since those interests and liberal politics are aligned, NBC is, whether in intends to or not, advancing a liberal political agenda.