General Electric – Report on Meeting Public Interest Broadcasting Obligations (2004 – 2005)
Outcome: Omitted by SEC
RESOLVED: That shareholders of General Electric Co. (“GE”) request the Board of Directors prepare a report, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, made available to shareholders by December 1, 2005, detailing GE subsidiary NBC Universal Television, Inc.’s broadcast television stations’ current activities to meet their public interest obligations. The report should include quantitative and qualitative information about public service announcements (PSAs), public affairs programming, news programs, children’s programs and ascertainment.
The Federal Communications Act of 1934 requires media companies utilizing the publicly owned electromagnetic spectrum to act as public trustees. Both the letter and spirit of the law require broadcasters to fulfill a public interest obligation in exchange for the use of the publicly owned spectrum.
Failure to meet these public interest obligations can result in a loss of a license to operate. Therefore, we think it is of critical interest to shareholders to understand both how our company’s television stations are currently meeting their public interest obligations and how they plan to do so in the future.
Over the past year a rapidly growing and politically diverse coalition has focused national attention on the role of media companies in our society. The increasingly critical attention being given to media companies is the result, in part, of their failure to either a) meet their public interest obligations or b) communicate effectively to the public the ways in which they are meeting those obligations. Indeed, just this year, petitions were filed with the FCC to deny the licenses of two Washington, D.C. TV stations (Paxson’s WPXW and Fox-owned UPN affiliate WDCA) for failure to uphold their public interest obligations by “failure to serve the educational needs of children.” The petitioners argued that the three television shows that the stations claimed to be “educational” do not meet the FCC definition, and that therefore the stations have failed to meet their quota of children’s educational programming.
As investors we believe this rising criticism, the recent challenges to operate that television broadcasters face, and the likelihood of the emergence of FCC public interest guidelines all give rise to the need for our company to prepare this report outlining how our company is meeting our public interest obligations and how it plans to do so in the future. This action could preempt license loss, foster good will, and enhance corporate reputation.
We urge you to vote in favor of this resolution asking for disclosure of this information.