Capital Broadcasting Company, owner of Raleigh Channel 5, WRAL television, is boasting on its website that it is soon to install a 1 megawatt solar power plant in Garner. Not only is it quite likely that it will get large tax break for doing this but CBC is guaranteed to be able to sell the electricity that it generates to Progress Energy under the state’s renewable portfolio standard mandate, Senate Bill 3, passed in 2007. As WRAL boasts:
Progress is purchasing the electricity as part of its state-required mandate to generate power from renewable sources. Lloyd Yates, Progress president and chief executive officer, said the CBC site is part of a larger effort to increase the use of solar as an energy source.
The problem is that WRAL is now supposed to report objectively on a controversial state law that its parent company is profiting from. In last year’s legislative session there was a proposal to abolish SB3 and similar bills are likely to come forward in the future. According to the only cost-benefit analysis done of the legislation, it is increasing electricity rates, slowing North Carolina’s economic growth rate and costing the state about 3500 jobs. The decision to build this solar power plant and take advantage of the coerced market that SB3 provides presents a clear conflict for WRAL in reporting on debates over this legislation as they unfold in the future. It is hoped that they note this conflict when the subject comes up, as it most certainly will. Furthermore, while the article doesn’t mention this, the Capital Broadcasting Company will probably be eligible for tax breaks that may very well come under scrutiny by the North Carolina General Assembly as it struggles to balance the state budget in future years. Again there is a clear conflict of interest in reporting on these issues and it is hoped that WRAL will make that clear to the viewers of its news broadcasts.