NBCUniversal, the parent of US broadcaster NBC, under pressure from human rights groups, on Wednesday said that its broadcast coverage of the Beijing Olympics would include the “geopolitical context” of China as the host nation.
It also said it would not send its announcers and most hosts to the Games due to concerns about rising COVID-19 cases worldwide and China’s strict policy about those who test positive.
The coverage plans, detailed in a video presentation to reporters, followed the urgings of human rights groups and a US congressional committee to cover China’s rights abuses during the Olympics, which begin on Feb. 4.
In 2014, NBC paid US$7.65 billion to extend its US broadcasting rights for the Olympics through 2032.
The Beijing Games have been marred in controversy over the past year, and the US and other governments have announced a diplomatic boycott of the event for what it says are rights abuses against Uighurs in Xinjiang. China denies wrongdoing, saying that camps for Uighurs provide vocational training and curb religious extremism.
Human rights and press freedom groups have also voiced concerns about the ability for journalists and NBC to freely report during the Olympics, citing China’s crackdown on press freedom.
The NBC News division, which has a Beijing bureau, would cover news in China, while the NBC Olympics division “will cover the issues that impact the Games as needed,” Molly Solomon, executive producer and president of NBC Olympics Production, said during the video presentation.
“We understand that there are some difficult issues regarding the host nation, 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,” she said.
She added that the broadcaster would have reporters at all Olympic venues.
“If something happens, we’ll have our own cameras on site,” she said.
However, later on Wednesday, Solomon said that for the second straight Games, most announcers and hosts would work out of NBC Sports headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, rather than the host city.
“With COVID’s changing conditions and China’s zero-tolerance policy, it’s just added a layer of complexity to all of this, so we need to make sure we can provide the same quality experience to the American viewers,” she said. “That’s why we are split between the two cities.”
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