Thursday, May 22, 2014

For the Record -- First Look Media and NBC News Partnership

The partnership between NBC News and Pierre Omidyar's First Look Media was briefly noted on NBC Evening News Tuesday, then was made quite explicit on tonight's news when a promo announced the impending "exclusive" interview of Edward Snowden by Brian Williams in Moscow.

Eric Wemple at the Washington Post has now expanded the announcement somewhat:

The interview is sure to produce some memorable exchanges, but the way that NBC News pulled off the coup is noteworthy as well. NBC News has a “collaboration agreement” with the outfit that these days publishes Greenwald’s work — First Look Media, the venture funded by billionaire and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Greenwald is a staffer at the Intercept, First Look’s digital magazine on national security matters.
So did the Greenwald “collaboration agreement” snare the Snowden interview for NBC News? For starters, Snowden is a strong-willed sort unlikely to take interview orders from anyone, though his relationship with Greenwald is airtight (he’s in a just-published selfie with Greenwald & Co. in Russia). According to the network source, NBC News approached Snowden via several avenues, one of them being through Greenwald. Though Greenwald didn’t negotiate the terms of the agreement, the NBC News source concedes that Greenwald is among a small number of people who can assist in making contact with Snowden, who is living in Moscow.
The agreement between NBC News and First Look Media contains no financial terms, says the NBC source. It’s merely what the network calls a co-reporting arrangement, in which the two participating outlets share resources in working on the almost always complicated surveillance stories that spring from the Snowden document dump. Responding to an e-mail inquiry, Greenwald himself says that the agreement “simply provides that we will work together on selected NSA stories, on a story-by-story basis, when it will help the reporting to do so.”
To complicate matters a bit, Greenwald worked as a freelancer for NBC News in between his departure from the Guardian and the launch of the Intercept. Together they produced four stories, with Greenwald receiving $750 a pop. In this February investigation, for instance, NBC News used Snowden documents to expose how British intelligence waged war on hackers. Greenwald is credited as a “special contributor” for the piece. In January, NBC News published a story stemming from Snowden documents on how British intelligence spied on Facebook and YouTube. That one, too, listed Greenwald as a special contributor.

There is more at the link.

If anyone wants to look into it, there is most certainly a story to be found in the various arrangements that have been made with and by Omidyar, his employees, and the media enterprises they have partnered with, but I don't know who would ((dare)) find out the whole story and publish it.

We live in interesting times...

[Note: there have been previous indications of the partnership between NBC and Greenwald/First Look, though the first time I heard it mentioned explicitly was on Tuesday. If anyone has an earlier explicit reference, it would be interesting to put together a timeline...]


  1. Che,

    I read somewhere that FirstLook also has a collaboration agreement with CBC (Canadian broadcast), but I haven't bothered to look into it.

    NBC is going to be able to cash in on ratings for this interview, as will their advertisers. And since NBC's parent company is GE, then by extension this military contractor (GE) cashes in, too. Way to buck the system there, boys!

    Greenwald would argue that he is merely bringing the story to the mass market, but I thought the whole point of Intercept was adversarial reporting the MSM wouldn't cover/couldn't be trusted to cover adequately. They could have done some interviews with Snowden on FirstLook and encouraged a wider audience via such "scoops", with the MSM picking up the stories and reprinting them - which also would have brought much more attention to FirstLook than it is getting. (Interest in FirstLook is practically nil right now, as far as I can tell, aside from the steadfast members of the cult, who would have been there anyway.)

    Hey, is there any information on the "tech" for-profit part of Intercept? This was the part of the company which was supposed to provide income for the media portion (supposedly a non-profit entity). It was touted as a new technology for use in media, whatever the hell that means. I would guess a technology that makes data-mining easier, but I am particularly suspicious of people like Omidyar and Gates, who will do anything, no matter how odious, to make a buck.

    - Teri

    1. Supposedly, GE no longer owns any of NBC but sold its stake to Comcast in 2013. From the Wiki:

      On December 3, 2009, after months of rumors, a deal was formally announced in which Comcast would buy a stake in NBC Universal from GE.[7] Under the agreement, NBC Universal would be controlled with a 51% stake by Comcast and GE would retain the remaining 49%. Comcast paid $6.5 billion cash to GE. The deal includes a provision under which Comcast must contribute $7.5 billion in programming including regional sports networks and cable channels such as Golf Channel, Versus, and E! Entertainment Television. GE used some of the funds, $5.8 billion, to buy out Vivendi's 20% minority stake in NBC Universal.[7] Under the terms of the deal, Comcast reserves the right to buy out GE's share at certain times, and GE reserves the right to force the sale of their stake within the first seven years.[7][34] Vivendi completed the initial transaction on September 27, 2010, selling a $2 billion stake to GE (approximately 7.66%).[8]

      U.S. regulators approved the proposed sale on January 18, 2011 with conditions. Comcast would have to give up NBC control over online video site Hulu, and ensure NBC Universal programming is available to competing cable operators.[35]

      On January 26, 2011, Vivendi sold its remaining shares in NBC Universal to GE, giving GE complete control of the company ahead of the completion of the sale of 51% of the company to Comcast on January 28, 2011.[36] Comcast and GE formed the joint venture holding company NBCUniversal, LLC. NBC Universal, Inc. became a wholly owned subsidiary of the holding company and was renamed as NBCUniversal Media, LLC.[37] Later that year, these two companies merged to become NBCUniversal, Inc.

      Comcast had planned to buy out GE's 49% stake over the following seven years, but ownership of NBCUniversal remained split at 51–49% for two years, until the February 12, 2013 announcement that Comcast intended to complete the $16.7 billion purchase early, all at once. The sale was completed on March 19, 2013.[9][10][38]

      Got that? My head is spinning.

      At this point, it looks like First Look is a booking agency more than anything else. But I'm sure the Gawker's John Cook has Big Plans for the Intercept, and we should just wait for its Reveal.

      Meanwhile, Pierre and his people don't seem to be trying to build an audience or brand or anything else, but they are providing a landing pad for the cult, so there is that.

      The thing that I keep in mind is that NBC News is a fully-tied-in element of the government-media matrix, and Brian Williams (and his brother Pete) are widely thought to be wholly owned subsidiaries of one of the factions of the Security State... which one is the issue. At any rate, NBC News is not going to buck the gov'met/corporate line. Ever. The Big Interview with Snowden and Greenwald to air Wednesday, mark your calendar, says to me that both are now suborned/subsumed in the matrix of which NBC is a prominent part. It would mean, too, that so is Pierre, First Look and Intercept.