NBC Doesn’t Cover GE Tax Story, Critics Go Into Attack Mode

By Alex Weprin 

Last week, the NY Times reported that General Electric earned $14.2 billion in profits last year, but paid nothing U.S. federal taxes. It became a big story, and a number of news organizations, including ABC News, covered it.

One place it was not covered was on NBC’s airwaves (with an asterisk, see after the jump). Ordinarily this would not be an issue, except that 49% of NBCUniversal is owned by GE, and up until January GE owned a majority of the company (Comcast currently controls 51% of NBCU).

In other words, it became an issue of corporate interference, as The Washington Post‘s Paul Farhi writes:

During its Friday broadcast, “NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams” had no time to mention that America’s largest corporation had essentially avoided paying federal taxes in 2010. Or its Saturday, Sunday or Monday broadcasts, either.

Did NBC’s silence have anything to do with the fact that one of its parent companies is General Electric?

NBC News representatives say that it didn’t. “This was a straightforward editorial decision, the kind we make daily around here,” said Lauren Kapp, spokeswoman for NBC News. Kapp declined to discuss how NBC decides what’s news or, in this case, what isn’t.

“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” also covered the issue on Monday:

Of course, the news was covered by NBC, just not on NBC. Rather, it was covered on MSNBC and CNBC, where Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell and Larry Kudlow addressed the tax situation.

While it is easy to criticize NBC for not covering a story, news divisions and networks routinely promote the corporate interests of their parent companies. For example, ABC News has promoted Disney cruises on-air, CNN promoted “Conan” when his new show debuted on TBS, and Fox News dedicated extra coverage to football in advance of Fox Sports’ Super Bowl coverage.

Producers and anchors also routinely make snap decisions as to what should be covered, and what should not be. In this case, the decision not to cover a story has drawn blowback that other corporate promotion (NBC’s hyping of Olympics coverage, for instance) has not.