On February 5, the Human Rights Campaign announced that it will keep a running analysis of NBC’s coverage of Russia’s anti-LGBT activity during the 2014 Winter games in Sochi.
Over the course of the seventeen-day event, it is expected that the station, which has exclusive rights to air the events, will air about 1,500 hours of Olympics-related coverage; HRC plans to report daily on the time spent discussing Russia’s social and legal homophobia at HRC.org/Russia.
Shortly after Russia enacted its controversial anti-gay laws in the summer of 2013, HRC President Chad Griffin wrote to NBCUniversal, asking the station to take advantage of the opportunity to expose the situation created by Russia’s homophobic laws.
In January 2014, the Olympics executive producer of NBC, Jim Bell, told press, “We’re not there to poke a sharp stick in anybody’s eye, but we’re not going to shy away from reporting anything either.” HRC also reported that other networks have announced their intent to air segments about the current plight of the Russian LGBT community.
Griffin said in a statement, “NBC has a unique opportunity to report on Russia’s inhumane assault on the rights of LGBT people to the millions of American television viewers tuning in to watch the Olympic Games over the next few weeks. They’ve promised to not shy away from covering the issue, and we will hold them to their word.”
One way HRC plans on reminding them is with a new petition, titled “NBC: Dedicate significant primetime coverage to the plight of LGBT Russians.”
The petition reads in part,
CEO Steve Burke, NBC News Pres. Deborah Turness & Jim Bell:
I’m writing to ask you to devote significant, dedicated primetime Olympic coverage to the plight of LGBT Russians and their allies.
Both of you have said that NBC won’t shy away from giving viewers the full context for these games, including LGBT rights. I applaud your commitment to journalistic integrity, and I’m hoping you’ll make good on your intentions.
Millions of people like me will be watching how NBC handles this issue. History will be watching.
This is one of the biggest stories of these Olympic Games. Failing to cover it fully, as befits a human rights disaster, would be a disservice not only to your viewers but to those suffering in Russia every day because of who they are.
President Vladimir Putin and the International Olympic Committee have given conflicting statements on whether the country’s laws will be enforced during the event; if so, a tourist found guilty of violating the dangerously unclear anti-propaganda laws could face up to fourteen days in jail before being deported.