NBC Universal's "eco-friendly" programming examined by WSJ -- What about its sister company, Fox News?

Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

As an avid viewer of several NBC prime-time programs -- 30 Rock and The Office among them -- I've grown accustomed to the "green" themed programming that pops up each year on the network and other NBC Universal outlets as well.

Who doesn't enjoy seeing Al Gore ham it up with Tina Fey from time to time?

The Wall Street Journal's Amy Chozick has an interesting piece out this week looking at the "eco-friendly" programming:

In just one week on NBC, the detectives on "Law and Order" investigated a cash-for-clunkers scam, a nurse on "Mercy" organized a group bike ride, Al Gore made a guest appearance on "30 Rock," and "The Office" turned Dwight Schrute into a cape-wearing superhero obsessed with recycling.

Coincidence? Hardly. NBC Universal planted these eco-friendly elements into scripted television shows to influence viewers and help sell ads.

[...]

Since fall 2007, network executives have been asking producers of almost every prime-time and daytime show to incorporate a green storyline at least once a year. The effort now takes place for a week in April and November. Starting April 19 this year, 40 NBC Universal outlets will feature some 100 hours of green-themed programming, including an episode of the Bravo reality series "Millionaire Matchmaker" in which a 39-year-old tycoon with an eco-friendly clothing line goes into a rage after his blind date orders red meat.

[...]

While the network says it tries to incorporate green programming throughout the year, the special emphasis twice a year creates an "event" that provides opportunities to advertisers, an NBC spokeswoman says. For instance, a Wal-Mart ad focusing on locally grown produce ran this past November after an episode of the medical drama "Trauma" in which emergency medic Rabbit rescues a window washer dangling precariously from a building; medics are alerted to the situation by a man sitting in his hybrid vehicle.

Behavior placement gives marketers extra incentive to advertise at a time when digital video recorders equip viewers with an unprecedented ability to skip commercials, says Jason Kanefsky, a media buyer at Havas's MPG. "You're not forcing your way into a program in any shape or form," he says. "You're just nodding your head at a program." ABC, CBS and FOX have plenty of product placement but haven't taken the step into behavior placement, network spokesmen say.

[...]

Armed with its own data showing consumers are wiling to spend more if a brand seems eco-friendly, NBC in 2007 launched "Green Week," the programming component of a larger "Green is Universal" corporate campaign. That effort brought in an estimated $20 million in advertising revenue from 20 sponsors, according to industry estimates. Many new clients, including the nutrition bar Soy Joy, came on board, NBC says. In April 2008, the network added another week of green-themed programming, when network logos go green and on-air promos tout NBC's support for the environment. But there are no obvious cues to alert viewers to the green emphasis in programming.

Chozick's story got me thinking. Wouldn't it be great if the Wall Street Journal spent 1,500 words (the length of the entire aforementioned piece) on a story delving into News Corps' efforts to go green and how its Fox News Channel spends considerable air-time attacking the science behind climate change and anything even vaguely eco-friendly?

Since the Journal is owned by News Corp, we shouldn't hold our breath. But just in case some Journal reporters happen to be reading (hello there!) I offer the following primer from a column I wrote in February:

Leading the anti-science idiocy is a host of conservative Fox News figures.

Over on the network's right-wing morning show, Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson maintained her long-held passion for dismissing climate science, saying she wanted to talk about the "dichotomy" created by "big snowstorms" occurring while "the Obama administration [is] talking about creating a new federal office to study global warming." Co-host Steve Doocy added to the nonsense, claiming that it was "interesting, though, given the fact that the weather is so rotten right now, and people are going, 'How can there be global warming if it's snowing and it's fairly cold?' "

Interesting observation? Hardly. Idiocy worth ignoring? Absolutley.

Fox News' Sean Hannity dug in deep as well, adding to his extensive history of science denial. The conservative host found it absolutely hilarious that Commerce Secretary Gary Locke had "tunneled his way through two feet of snow in D.C." to announce the proposed creation of a new Climate Service office within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The very next day, Hannity was back at it, saying, "Global warming, where are you? We want you back" while discussing recent winter storms.

Ironically, Rupert Murdoch -- CEO of News Corp., Fox News' parent company -- stated in 2007 that News Corp. "can set an example" and "reach our audiences" when it comes to fighting climate change, promising to make all of News Corp.'s operations carbon neutral by this year.

Perhaps it's time for Murdoch to call an all-staff meeting and discuss just how they are reaching their respective audiences on this issue, which he has said "poses clear, catastrophic threats."

There is a whole lot more where that comes from -- 247 research items, video/audio clips, blog posts and columns here at Media Matters alone.

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