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Republicans question NBC over coverage of Beijing Olympics

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Republican House lawmakers on Tuesday questioned NBCUniversal on the level of influence that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will have on its coverage of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, asking how the network would be handling “China’s history of human rights abuses.”

In a letter to NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell and the network’s President of Olympics Gary Zenkel, GOP Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) and Bob Latta (Ohio) asked how NBC planned on using its investment in the games to cover China’s alleged human rights violations.

“We believe all companies doing business in the U.S. must be examples to the world, as their success has been benefited from our country’s respect for the rule of law, human rights, and entrepreneurial enterprise,” they wrote.

Rodgers and Latta pointed to the reported human rights abuses of Uyghur Muslim people in the Xinjiang region, the crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong and the continued military intimidation of Taiwan.

Last month, the White House announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics, deciding against sending any government officials to the games due to the alleged human rights violations in China.

Looking back on former President Nixon’s work to open China to the West, the lawmakers wrote that Nixon’s approach of “encouraging freedom and human rights through commerce” will not work if “Western companies continue to capitulate to the Chinese Communist Party.”

They requested that NBC provide information on its investments in China and respond to questions about whether or not the IOC or the CCP has sought to influence NBC’s coverage of the Olympics and whether or not China has the ability to block feeds from entering the U.S., among other concerns.

They also questioned what safeguards were being used to ensure forced labor from Xinjiang was not being used in NBC’s Olympics coverage.

When reached for comment by The Hill, NBC referred to public remarks last week by Molly Solomon, president of NBC Olympics production.

“We are going to be focusing on telling the stories of Team USA and covering the competition. But the world, as we all know, is a really complicated place right now, and we understand that there are some difficult issues regarding the host nation,” Solomon said. 

“So, our coverage will provide perspective on China’s place in the world and the geopolitical context in which these Games are being held. But the athletes do remain the centerpiece of our coverage.”

As Solomon noted, veteran China reporter Andrew Browne of Bloomberg and Jing Tsu, Yale professor of China Studies, will also be providing analysis during NBC primetime.

Last week it was announced that NBC would not be sending announcers to the Beijing Olympics due to COVID-19 concerns, though NBC Olympic host Mike Tirico will still travel to China to cover the first few days of the games. NBC will instead be covering the games from the NBC Sports headquarters in Stamford, Conn.

Updated at 4:48 p.m.

Tags Bob Latta Bob Latta Cathy McMorris Rodgers Cathy McMorris Rodgers China Hong Kong pro-democracy protestors International Olympic Committee National Broadcasting Company NBC NBC Sports NBCUniversal Olympic Games Uyghur Muslims Winter Olympics Xinjiang

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