Mixed Media: GE, NBC and the myth of independence

Chief executives are normally the sort of folks who like to be in control, or at least be seen as in control, of everything going on around them. One exception is the CEOs of conglomerates that contain media companies. More often than not, they're anxious to be seen as utterly hands-off when it comes to their news operations, a pose that wins them the admiration of independent-press advocates and gives them a gives them a ready-made excuse when their powerful friends call to complain about coverage.

Of course, it's usually just that -- a pose, and, for GE's Jeff Immelt, it's suddenly not a very convincing one. When White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel called Immelt to ask that NBC carry President Obama's most recent prime time press conference live, even though it meant forgoing millions in advertising revenues, Immelt made a big show of deferring to his subordinate, NBC Universal chairman Jeff Zucker. "Immelt told [Emmanuel] that it was Zucker's decision, and a subsequent call to Zucker yielded an agreement that NBC would provide live coverage," according to today's Washington Post.