Attention all big fans of the Winter Olympics: a controversy in the host country of the upcoming Games means there’s a chance you won’t be able to watch them when the get underway in Beijing on February 4.
If that happens, it will be because of political pressure placed on television networks to cancel their coverage because of China’s treatment of minorities.
A collection of human rights groups has sent a letter to Jeff Shell, the CEO of NBC Universal, not only asking him to drop broadcast plans of the Games, but according to the AP, the letter accused NBC and other networks who have broadcast rights of being complicit in the abuses in China.
Considering NBC paid $7.75 billion in their recent tv rights package that won them exclusivity to the next six Olympiads, it’s very doubtful they will pull the plug on plans that are already well underway.
The pressure isn’t just being placed on NBC, Britain’s BBC, Canada’s CBC and Germany’s ARD networks, the IOC is getting heat too. 15 major sponsors of the Beijing Games are putting the clamps on the Olympic Committee, and some are even calling for a boycott.
The human rights groups involved in the letter include the Tibet Network, Free Tibet, World Uyghur Congress, WeTheHongKongers, Keep Taiwan Free and China Against Death Penalty.
NBC just wrapped up thousands of hours of coverage for the Summer Games in Tokyo in August.