— Published 27 January 2022

US elected officials hold NBC to account

This is an unprecedented move. With 10 days to go before the opening of the Beijing Winter Games (4 to 20 February), two American congressmen have questioned the management of the NBCUniversal group about the influence that the Chinese Communist Party would try to exert on their channels’ coverage of the next Olympic event. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Robert Latta, both Republicans and members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wrote to NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell and the group’s Olympic broadcasting president Gary Zenkel. In their letter, the two lawmakers say they are “concerned about the extent of influence the Chinese Communist Party may have over NBCUniversal’s coverage of the games”. They said they wanted American viewers to be able to understand whether NBCUniversal’s coverage of the Games was influenced by the IOC or the regime in Beijing. The two Republicans point out that the IOC has added a human rights requirement to its contract with the host city, but only from the Paris 2024 Games onwards. It therefore does not concern the Beijing 2022 Winter Games. They said they wanted to know whether the IOC or the Chinese Communist Party could prevent the broadcasting of reports critical of China, particularly on the issue of human rights. Finally, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Robert Latta asked NBCUniversal what plans it had to ensure that it did not use forced labour, “particularly in Xinjiang province”, while its teams were in China for the Winter Games. Molly Solomon, the president of production for NBC Olympics, said last week that the coverage of the Beijing Games will give “our coverage will provide perspective on China’s place in the world and the geopolitical context in which these Games are being held”. She added that the athletes will remain the “centrepiece” of NBC’s Olympic coverage, but that the on-site teams “will have their own cameras”. This will allow them to cover the news if something happens outside the purely sporting arena.