Accuracy in Media

“NBC gives new meaning to the phrase ‘green screen’ next week,” announced David Bauder of the Associated Press on Monday.  Indeed, NBC will be exhibiting some “green” themes in five of its prime-time programs, including “30 Rock,” “The Office,” “Community,” “Heroes,” and even “The Biggest Loser.”

According to the AP, Al Gore will be guest starring on 30 Rock, the heroes of Heroes will be talking about recycling, and Dwight from The Office will act as the “Recyclops.”  The AP reports,  “trainers on “The Biggest Loser” will instruct their clients to buy organic produce and bring their own mugs to the coffee shop.” 

The surface argument here is that going “green” is “something that is relatable and is something that a lot of people are doing.”  At least, that’s how the actors involved are explaining it.  Beth Colleton, vice president of the “Green is Universal” campaign, indicated that shows were not outright forced to include the themes.  From the AP:

“We make sure we don’t dictate to the show,” [Colleton] said. Producers decide the best way to absorb the message in a way that’s appropriate for their audiences, she said.

However, it is noteworthy that NBC is actually owned by General Electric.  And General Electric, in turn, is chaired by Jeffrey Immelt.

These are two significant facts.  Both General Electric as a company and Jeffrey Immelt as a person have a lot at stake in the “green” movement. 

In 2005, General Electric launched a new initiative called Ecomagination.  The idea was to solidify their place as an eco-friendly company.  Since, General Electric has created many enviro-central products, such as photovoltaic cells and water desalination machines.  Obviously, selling these often expensive products requires a strong customer base.  Such a base would necessarily be made up of eco-alarmists – because why would a global warming skeptic or denier pay for such expensive products when regular tap water or electricity from coal would do?

This issue is especially pressing today, when most consumers are increasingly skeptical of global warming.  Add to that a growing economic crisis, and General Electric’s eco-friendly line could be in some serious trouble.

Jeffrey Immelt obviously has a lot hinging on the success of GE—in 2007, he made $14 million from the company.  But he also has a lot invested in the success of President Obama’s agenda.  Immelt is on President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, and has been since February 2009.  President Obama’s agenda includes “green” jobs and “green” initiatives—two things Immelt has been very supportive of in the past.

Immelt’s agenda is not just pushed through General Electric – it’s also pushed through NBC.  But this week, we won’t just be seeing that agenda pushed through news programming and commercials.  This week, the propaganda will be present in the TV shows, too.

It’s not the first time a political and economic agenda shaped a television show.  In fact, many television shows were actually sponsored by cigarette companies looking for a new medium to sell cigarettes with.  The danger is not necessarily politicized programming—the problem is politicized programming that viewers don’t realize is politicized.

And NBC’s programming?  At least this week, consider it politicized.


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