From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
DIALOGUE WITH GENERAL ELECTRIC, OWNER OF NBC,
05 May 1996 13:16:52
95222 DIALOGUE WITH GENERAL ELECTRIC, OWNER OF NBC,
ON TELEVISION VIOLENCE TO CONTINUE
By Julian Shipp
CHARLESTON, W.Va.--Following the strong showing of a church-sponsored
shareholder's resolution asking General Electric to review NBC's programs
for extreme violence, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Mission
Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) Committee will continue
discussions with the company.
During GE's annual meeting this spring, the resolution received 8.4
percent of the affirmative proxy votes. The resolution was brought to the
meeting by a coalition of religious groups, including the PC(USA), that own
stock in GE, the parent of NBC.
"The company has indicated its interest in pursuing the dialogue with
a meeting this fall prior to the filing date for 1996 resolutions," said
the Rev. William Somplatsky-Jarman, MRTI associate in the National
"The resolution's vote total was sufficient for resubmission, but
given the new climate at the SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission], the
resolution might be challenged on ordinary business grounds,"
The committee agreed to organize the follow-up meeting with GE
executives before the resolution filing date so that a decision on whether
or not to refile can be made.
General Electric responded to the shareholder proposal by unfurling a
$20 million advertising campaign that features antiviolence messages from
NBC stars. Committee members viewed the segments during their meeting, but
remained unchanged on their views about television violence and its effects
on viewers, especially children.
"I think we have a responsibility as a church and society to pull the
plug [on violent television programs]," said Judith Freyer of Philadelphia,
a Board of Pensions staff liaison to MRTI.
"I think this is a cultural issue because we are creating
[detrimental] societal norms through television," said Charles B. Redman,
an MRTI committee member from Baton Rouge, La., representing the PC(USA)
MRTI also advised the Foundation that divestment of Nestle corporation
stock as a result of its marketing practices for breast milk substitutes is
not necessary under current General Assembly policy. The committee agreed
to refer the issue of marketing breast milk substitutes to the National
Ministries Division for review.
The Foundation had sought clarification after the 1994 Assembly
adopted an overture regarding ownership of stock in the Nestle corporation.
The overture advocated divestment of Nestle stock due to the corporation's
practice of distributing harmful breast milk substitutes in developing
nations. The PC(USA) played a major role in the historic consumer boycott
of Nestle, which ended in 1984, through leadership, funding for advocacy
efforts, constituency education about the boycott and the Assembly's
endorsement of it.
"We have not fulfilled the guidelines for divestment, but the
Presbyterian Church should do more about this," said Dr. Harry E. Smith, an
MRTI committee and General Assembly Council member from Chapel Hill, N.C.
"I think the [Nestle] boycott was effective before and it certainly was an
educational device in the life of the church."
During their stay in Charleston, W.Va., committee members held
discussions with Southern Appalachia Labor School and Commission on
Religion in Appalachia representatives, met with women coal miners and
visited the Hobet 21 surface mine, which is operated by Hobet Mining, Inc.,
a subsidiary of Ashland Coal.
They also traveled to Mingo County, W. Va., to meet with local
residents who claimed their lives have been negatively impacted by the
mining industry and with members of the West Virginia Organizing Project,
an organization that works on community issues that arise from both surface
and underground coal mining.
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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