Fates and Fortunes

Shields upped at NBC U

6/15/2009 05:01:44 PM

I didn’t really think Cory Shields could be promoted any further at NBC Universal, but this latest announcement reminds us that company execs can always move the ceiling a little higher if they think you’re worth it.

Shields, NBC U’s top PR guy for the past three years, has been named executive vice president of global policy strategies and alliances, according to NBC U President and CEO Jeff Zucker. Shields will report to Zucker and to NBC U EVP and General Counsel Rick Cotton, the company’s top lawyer.

Shields’ new gig is also a new position for NBC. In it, he “will play a key role in advancing NBC Universal’s global agenda for strengthening IP protection for the company’s content around the world as well as for continuing to build strong alliances with other IP-intensive industries, labor unions and other organizations focused on protecting jobs and growing the U.S. economy.”

Said Zucker in a statement: “The lifeblood of a media company is its intellectual property, which is why I’ve asked Cory to take on this crucial challenge. It makes great sense to have a high-level communications professional wholly dedicated to our global IP agenda.”

Cotton added: “It has become clear that we need a senior executive who can serve as our dedicated communications strategist on IP issues, playing a role in formulating policy and in advancing our position with opinion-makers, the general public, unions and other allies around the world.”

It sounds like Shields will serve as a communications professional, domestic and international lobbyist, and diplomat all rolled into one. I immediately wondered if this new job will mean a lot of international travel and it sounds like the answer is yes: he’ll continue to be based in New York but he’ll also be charged with driving NBC U’s anti-piracy agenda domestically, which means D.C., and abroad, particularly Western Europe and policy-focused cities such as London, Brussels and Geneva. NBC U has a lobbying team in D.C. that focuses on piracy and other domestic policy issues.

Shields has a big task in front of him. I’m increasingly convinced that consumers believe they have a constitutional right to free media. Free TV portals such as Hulu, co-owned by NBC, aren’t doing anything to convince them otherwise. I’m not personally opposed to watching TV for free, but I do believe that we either need to pay for it or watch the commercials if we still want the privilege of enjoying good programs. Production doesn’t come cheap.

He also has the opportunity to play a critical role in the development of policy around some of the most important and tricky issues of our time. Publicly, the Obama administration’s domestic focus is on such broadly important subjects as health care, environment and energy, but this administration knows better than any thus far the importance of technology to our economy. How we shape that policy will have economic and cultural impact for years to come.

Shields has been NBC U’s top PR guy/EVP of communications since June 2006, which was his second go-round at the company. Prior to that, he was senior vice president of corporate communications for Sony BMG Music and chief communications officer and EVP at J. Walter Thompson.

From 1997 to 2004, Shields worked in NBC PR, first as a director of NBC News media relations and then as VP of MSNBC communications. He was named VP of corporate communications in 2000 and promoted to senior vice president in 2002.

One of his most prominent tasks at NBC has been creating a communications strategy around the company’s acquisition of Vivendi Universal Entertainment. He’s also been intimately involved with some of NBC’s other acquisitions, including Spanish-language  network and TV station group Telemundo and cable network Bravo.

Prior to joining NBC U, Shields served as director of communications at MacNeil/Lehrer Productions from 1995 to 1997. He was responsible for directing press, public, and station relations for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

From 1990 to 1995, Shields was director of public affairs for the  American Express Company, where he was responsible for public and media relations efforts for the company’s corporate card, purchasing card, and travel businesses.

Before that, he served for four years as manager of public relations and advertising for Figgie International, a diversified Fortune 500 holding company.

Shields began his professional career in broadcast journalism as a reporter, producer, and host of the nationally syndicated program PM Magazine. Later, he anchored and produced the local weekend news at WRIC-TV in Richmond, Virginia.

He lives in New York and graduated from Connecticut’s Fairfield University with a B.A. in politics

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