On Friday, the world's eyes will be on Russia as the 2014 Winter Olympics begin.
Will millions of Olympics fans learn the truth about Russia's draconian anti-LGBT law? Or will the Olympics be a propaganda tool for Putin and Russia, sweeping its human rights abuses under the rug?
NBC producer Jim Bell has said the network won't "shy away from reporting anything" around LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) issues in Russia. We need to make sure that includes truly educating viewers about the plight of LGBT people in Russia – an important way to report the actual news and turn up the pressure on Russia to change its ways.
NBC plans to air 1,500 hours of programming on the Sochi Olympics. They have enough time to tell this story.
For the full 17-day run of the Sochi Games, we'll monitor the Olympic coverage on all of NBC's networks 24/7 and track the time they devote to LGBT rights in Russia. You can follow along by checking HRC.org/Russia where we’ll be posting daily updates.
NBC has given plenty of indications that they'll do the right thing. They sent me a letter that makes it clear that the Russian law is in violation of the International Olympic Committee rules. They even brought openly-gay U.S. Sochi delegation members Billie Jean King, Brian Boitano and Caitlin Cahow on The Today Show to talk about the anti-LGBT situation in Russia.
It's encouraging to see the coverage so far on NBC and to hear the network's assurance that their journalists will "do what they have to do to report stories as they develop." But we still don't know exactly what that means, or what NBC's coverage will be.
During the 2012 London Olympics, NBC aired a primetime segment about Greenwich Mean Time and the invention of the wristwatch. With 1,500 hours of coverage of the Sochi Olympics – devoting dedicated primetime coverage to one of the biggest stories of this Olympics isn't too much to ask.
HRC has been working on this issue for months – from our "Love Conquers Hate" campaign raising funds for Russian human rights groups, to pressuring the International Olympic Committee and the corporate sponsors of the Olympics to speak out, to months of pressure on NBC. It all comes down to the next few days.