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« HAMP: House Republicans Vote to Abolish Foreclosure Assistance Program, Obama Threatens Veto | Main | Bernanke On Oil Price Shocks »
Wednesday
Mar302011

Brian Williams, NBC News Stay Mum On GE’s $0 Tax Bill

Video - Obama and Immelt - Jan. 2011

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As the New Yorker's former press critic, A.J. Liebling, famously said, "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one."

In spite of robust profits of $14.2 billion worldwide, GE has calculated a corporate tax bill for 2010 that adds up to zero, via a creative series of tax referrals and revenue shifts. (This was, indeed, the second year running that the company—which has an enormous, and famously nimble, 975-employee tax division, led by former Treasury official John Samuels—paid nothing in U.S. taxes; indeed by claiming a series of losses and deductions, GE came up with a negative tax of 10.5 percent in the admittedly dismal business year of 2009, and realized a $1.5 billion "tax benefit.")

The curious thing about this year's tax story is that it turned up in many major news outlets, with one key exception: NBC News.

The Washington Post's Paul Farhi notes...

It’s the kind of accountability journalism that makes readers raise an eyebrow, if it doesn’t raise their blood pressure first.

The front-page story drew widespread commentary in newspapers and on many Web sites. ABC News and Fox News, among others, were all over it.

But during its Friday broadcast, “NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams” had no time to mention that America’s largest corporation had essentially avoided paying federal taxes in 2010. Or its Saturday, Sunday or Monday broadcasts, either.

Did NBC’s silence have anything to do with the fact that one of its parent companies is General Electric?

Ignoring stories about its parent company’s activities is “part of a troubling pattern” for NBC News, said Peter Hart, a director at Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a liberal media watchdog group that often documents instances of corporate interference in news. He cited a series of GE-related stories that NBC’s news division has underplayed over the years, from safety issues in GE-designed nuclear power plants to the dumping of hazardous chemicals into New York’s Hudson River by GE-owned plants.

What’s more, Hart notes, NBC News has covered corporate tax-avoidance stories before — that is, when they didn’t involve GE. All three networks’ news divisions, according to Hart, have become reliable sources of publicity for their parents’ other corporate interests, doing news stories about upcoming sporting events or new TV shows carried on their own networks.

“It’s very curious,” Hart said. “Imagine if a different company were involved. If you changed the name to Citibank or Goldman Sachs, would NBC be interested in the story then? I suspect they would be.”

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Related...

Jon Stewart: NBC News Was Too Busy Explaining 'LOL' And 'Muffin Top' To Report On GE's Zero Tax Bill

 

 

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Reader Comments (2)

What? The Katie Courics and Jake Tappers are silent? How did this happen?

Oh, Bilderberg, Obama Admin, and Soros.
Mar 30, 2011 at 5:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterYu Augri
If they won't pay taxes, then why should you?

It's legal for one and not for the other, you say?

Laws are only man-made documents, which are products of the human creative imagination, nothing more. Thus they do not, in and of themselves, have any more power than do so many shopping lists.
Mar 30, 2011 at 7:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterTatiana Covington

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