Republican lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives have begun to probe whether and to what extent the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) may be influencing NBC’s coverage of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.
In 2014, NBC paid $7.75 billion for the exclusive rights to broadcast the Olympic games in the U.S. through 2032. In a letter to NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell and NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel, first reported by Axios, Republican leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee asked how the network will use its investment to cover the Olympics “to shed light on China’s history of human rights abuses.”
“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,” Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Robert Latta (R-OH) wrote.
The pair of Republican lawmakers asked whether the IOC or CCP had done anything to shape NBC’s coverage of the Games, particularly “relating to reported human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang province.” Another question asked if the IOC or CCP has asked to make any changes to NBC’s coverage or is “in any way precluded by the IOC or CCP from coverage that would be critical of the government of the PRC.”
China is believed to have imprisoned an estimated 1.8 million Uyghurs in Xinjiang. China has reportedly used birth control and forced abortions and sterilizations against the Uyghur population, for which the U.S. has assessed China is committing acts of genocide. China has also been accused of human rights abuses over its use of forced Uyghur labor, torture and restrictions on Uyghur religious freedom.
President Joe Biden has already decided to hold a diplomatic boycott of the games, citing China’s human rights abuses. The diplomatic boycott means the U.S. will not send any diplomatic or official representation for the games, though U.S. athletes will still be able to compete.
Rodgers and Latta asked NBC to provide their written answers to their questions, and any supporting documents, to the Energy and Commerce Committee by Feb. 7.
NBC has already noted some concerns about the geopolitical atmosphere surrounding the games. Molly Solomon, the executive producer and president of NBC Olympics Production, said at a media event last week, “We understand that there’s some difficult issues regarding the host nation, so our coverage will provide perspectives on China’s place in the world, and the geopolitical context in which these games are being held, but the athletes do remain the focus of our coverage.”
NBC will reportedly bring journalist Andy Brown and Chinese cultural historian Jing Tsu to serve as China analysts, joining the network’s anchors during their primetime coverage of the games.