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New NBC Exec Gets Pass on Ethics

Oct. 27 2008, Published 7:07 a.m. ET

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OFFICE SUPPLIER Silverman

What's a little conflict of interest when your network's in fourth place?

That seems to be NBC's attitude regarding the hiring of Ben Silverman, who was yesterday named co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal Television Studio, alongside Marc Graboff.

Silverman confirmed in a call with reporters late yesterday that he'll hang onto his ownership of Reveille, the production company he founded, whose hits have included The Office and Ugly Betty. This means he will, in effect, be in charge of buying programming from himself—exactly the kind of conflict of interest NBC parent General Electric warns the company's managers against in its code of conduct.

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Silverman offered only the vaguest explanation of how he intends to get around the appearance of self-dealing. "Anything new that emanates from Reveille I will have no benefit from," he said. Later in the call, he expanded, without clarifying: "I will obviously own Reveille, but I won't get any benefit from anything new that comes from Reveille. I'm coming in to work at NBC. This is my job every day."

Perhaps Silverman meant that he will get no direct benefit from any new Reveille programs? If additional measures were put in place to ensure he will derive no gain whatsoever from any increase in the value of his company, Silverman went out of his way to avoid spelling it out.

Photo: Getty Images

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