Because we’ve been talking so much lately about Sinclair Broadcast Group meddling in the news programming of stations that it owns, it’s important to point out that Sinclair isn’t alone. Other corporations do this, too, to some extent.
Case in point: NBCUniversal’s corporate owner, telecom giant Comcast. Over the weekend, you may have noticed that Comcast promoted its global corporate feel–good event known as “Comcast Cares Day,” which took place on Saturday. Comcast really wanted viewers around the world to know that the company cares.
That was the corporate message news anchors like MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace and Al Sharpton had to push during a recent appearance by Comcast Senior Executive VP David Cohen on the Morning Joe show in advance of the 17th annual Comcast Cares Day.
“I think we do this as a company because as a big company, as a big corporation, we certainly appreciate that we have a responsibility to give back to the communities, to try and improve the communities where our employees and our customers live and work,” Cohen said. “And when we’re organized like this, we can do 17 years of this incredible day of service, which has a huge impact on one day but is really a celebration of the fact that we care every day of the year, and give our employees an outlet to volunteer. We’ll have over 100,000 employees, members of their families, and nonprofit partners volunteering tomorrow [Saturday] at over 1,000 projects in more than 20 countries.”
“Wow,” Wallace replied.
“This is creepy & humiliating: MSNBC devotes almost 8 minutes of airtime on @Morning_Joe to heralding the humanitarianism of its corporate owner Comcast, complete with Comcast executives touting themselves under the chyron ‘COMAST CARES DAY,’” Greenwald tweeted.
“Citation Needed” podcast co–host Adam Johnson chastised Sharpton for comparing Comcast’s corporate volunteerism with Nelson Mandela’s lifetime of human rights and civil rights work.
“Comcast property MSNBC having its nominally independent analysts and hosts doing a cultish Comcast commercial was bad enough but Al Sharpton claiming Comcast was carrying on the work of Nelson Mandela was uh something else,” Johnson wrote.
But MSNBC wasn’t alone in covering Comcast Cares Day. NBC affiliates across the nation “pitched in.” NBC Bay Area, for example, ran a PR–sounding segment that was a lot like all of the other ones. So did NBC 5 in Fort Worth, TX, NBC 10 in Philadelphia, NBC 4 in Los Angeles, NBC 5 in Chicago, and NBC Connecticut, to name a few. Other media outlets joined in, including ABC’s WTXL in Tallahassee, FL, The Denver Post, and The Tennessean, among others.
One of the lessons here is that at the end of the day, corporate messaging disguised as, or infused into, news programming isn’t limited to a specific ideology—it can come from the left or the right or anywhere in–between. We just have to be paying attention.