From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 13:16:52


                        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 
Ministries Division. 
     "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," 
Somplatsky-Jarman said. 
     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   Web page: 


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