NBC Universal isn't painting its Rockefeller Center headquarters green — at least not yet — but the company is pushing all of its networks to deliver environmentally friendly programming this coming week.
"Dateline NBC" will report on melting snow on mountains in Bolivia, "Today" will have daily segments on renewable energy, Jim Cramer will talk about "green" stocks on CNBC's "Mad Money" and NBC is encouraging its affiliates to report on environmental issues on local newscasts. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture between Microsoft and NBC Universal)
Green is the password in late-night entertainment, too, where "Last Call with Carson Daly" brings on Darryl Hannah to talk about organic skateboards.
NBC Universal will also specifically seek out advertisers with green-friendly messages when it's selling commercial time on NBC and its other networks this spring.
The company says it isn't only preaching to others; NBC Universal is installing large solar panels at the company's movie studios in California, and has eliminated all plastic foam from company cafeterias.
Tied to Earth Day on Tuesday, the special "Green Week" effort is the company's second in six months. NBC Universal is following the lead of corporate parent General Electric Co., which is among many companies sensing that the public looks kindly on pro-environmental efforts.
"We don't shy away from the fact that green, so to speak, should be green," said Lauren Zalaznick, the Bravo network chief and head of the NBC Universal Green Council. For example, "Today" drew strong ratings last fall when it sent Ann Curry to Antarctica, Matt Lauer to Greenland and Al Roker to the equator.
Among the other news efforts, Tim Russert was asked to question presidential candidates about environmental issues last fall on "Meet the Press," she said.
One expert on environmental journalism, however, said he was uncomfortable with the company's green focus reaching into NBC's news department.
"I would greatly prefer to see these issues come up from reporters and editors and not from CEOs when, my guess is, they are much more concerned about marketing and demographics than they are about news judgment," said Dan Fagin, director of the Science, Health and Environmental Reporting program at New York University.
Such environmental issues are a big concern now among people in their 20s, particularly those with money, he said. That's the sweet spot that TV advertisers pay a premium to reach.
The irony, Fagin said, is that environmental issues aren't getting much attention in the presidential campaign.
Zalaznick said she sees nothing wrong with the company encouraging news programmers to focus on these issues; she maintained that no political stance is taken. The environment is at the forefront of the news and is being aggressively covered by others, NBC said.
"This is about awareness," she said. "Nobody argues that picking up garbage is not a good idea, or recycling your cell phone is not a good idea."
Jim Bell, executive producer of "Today," said the "Today Goes to the Ends of the Earth" feature last year was developed entirely by the show's producers. It is likely to be revisited, he said.
"What we did speaks for itself," Bell said. "It was a tremendous concept and execution the entire way."
NBC Universal's effort will continue beyond next week. Two other "green weeks" are already in the works, Zalaznick said.