It's a very dangerous situation when any huge multinational corporation wages war against media companies. Especially when that huge multinational corporation is General Electric, which itself owns a media company, NBC Universal, and it's using all its power and influence and money to try to harm another media company, Nielsen, and Nielsen Business Media, and its trade publication The Hollywood Reporter. This certainly sounds like a situation which the FCC, and the FTC, and the U.S. Justice Department should be investigating. Just one problem: the controversy stems from GE/NBCU's coverage of President Obama. Here's what happened:
According to my sources inside and outside Nielsen Business Media, The Hollywood Reporter trade publication ran a story dated April 22nd and updated on April 24th covering the "drama" at the most recent GE shareholders meeting in Orlando. THR's West Coast Business Editor Paul Bond wasn't sent to the meeting, but he interviewed about half a dozen people who'd been inside the shareholders meeting and told him what transpired (see below). Bond's THR story focused on the attempts by stockholders and Fox News Channel and other media to find out whether or not GE Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Immelt ordered his news operations to be less critical of President Obama and his policies.
Bond's story was immediately picked up by The Drudge Report under the headline "GE shareholders outraged over MSNBC bias; Microphone cut off." It became a widely posted news story on conservative and liberal and media websites everywhere. That's when, sources inside and outside Nielsen Business Media tell me, GE Chairman Jeff Immelt ordered a GE company-wide ban on all of THR's parent company: advertising, editorial, the works. After a few days, the ban was reduced to GE's NBC Universal which chief Jeff Zucker carried out against Nielsen Business Media's The Hollywood Reporter and lasted six weeks. My NBC Universal sources believe the ban was lifted yesterday.
My reporting is the first about the ban or what led to it. "People need to know that GE is using its media arm to stifle coverage about its company, and this is coming from Immelt and Zucker," a Nielsen Business Media insider said. I'd attempted multiple times over several weeks to speak with NBCU about this story but the company won't discuss it.
Here's what's also interesting: the current Chairman/CEO of Nielsen is David Calhoun, who prior to joining in 2006 served as Vice Chairman of GE. After rising through GE since 1979, Calhoun had been in contention to run the conglomerate after Jack Welch retired. But Immelt got the top spot instead. As President/CEO of GE Infrastructure, the largest of six GE business units and responsible for 25% of the company's sales, Calhoun surprised Wall Street when he became the first top exec to quit after Immelt took over in 2001.
In that THR article, Bond's reporting revealed: