Lawmakers Probe NBC About China’s Influence on Beijing Olympics Coverage

Republican leaders raised questions about the level of influence the Chinese Communist Party will have on the Games

The Beijing 2022 logo is seen at Sheremetyevo International Airport
The Beijing 2022 logo is seen at Sheremetyevo International Airport.
Mikhail TereshchenkoTASS via Getty

In a letter addressed to executives at  NBCUniversal, Republican leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee raised questions about the level of influence the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will have on the network’s coverage of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and whether “China’s history of human rights abuses” would be part of the coverage.

“As you are no doubt aware, the CCP is responsible for atrocities against Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang province. In addition to these despicable actions, the CCP continues to crack down on the citizens of Hong Kong and silence those who speak out against the party,” GOP Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) and Bob Latta (Ohio) wrote in the letter. “Given China’s history of censorship and government control, and the fact that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stands to benefit financially from NBCUniversal’s coverage of the games, we are concerned about the extent of influence the CCP may have over NBCUniversal’s coverage of the games. As NBCUniversal begins its coverage of the 2022 Winter Olympics, we believe viewers and listeners deserve to understand whether your programming has been influenced by the IOC or the Chinese Communist Party. Please provide written responses and any related documentation to the following questions by February 7.”

The questions NBC was asked to answer in the document include:

  • Has the IOC or the CCP taken any steps to influence your coverage of the games relating to reported human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang province? If so, please explain.
  • As part of your rights to broadcast the games, are you in any way precluded by the IOC or CCP from coverage that would be critical of the government of the PRC?
  • Does the government of the PRC or the CCP have the ability to block your broadcast feed to the United States as they deem fit?

NBC may submit answers to those questions and others, but don’t expect the broadcast giant to suddenly pull its coverage of the Games as the network paid $7.75 billion for the rights to exclusively broadcast the Olympics in the U.S. through 2032. That money constitutes roughly 40% of the IOC’s revenue.

Speaking of the IOC, the organization claims it spoke with missing Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai last week and will meet with her in Beijing next month at the Olympics. The IOC previously said it had several phone calls with the player, according to Reuters.

“Since the first call that the IOC held with Peng Shuai on 21 November 2021, the IOC team has kept in touch with her and had a number of conversations with her — the last one just the past week,” an IOC spokesperson said Wednesday. “She mentioned again that she is looking forward to a meeting with IOC President Thomas Bach and Emma Terho, the Chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, to which we had invited her in the first conversation.”

Per Axios, NBC’s Olympic anchors will be joined by two China analysts, former Wall Street Journal China editor Andy Brown and Chinese cultural historian Jing Tsu, during its primetime coverage of the Games.

“Our coverage will provide perspective on China’s place in the world and the geopolitical context in which these Games are being held,” Molly Solomon, president of NBC Olympics Production, said last week. “But the athletes do remain the centerpiece of our coverage.”

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