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Comcast Gets Better Of Early Open Mike

The early returns on the public comment at the FCC’s Comcast/NBCU forum was something of a landslide of support for Comcast as a good corporate partner, though at press time critics seemed to be getting more mike time.

 In contrast to the preceding panels, where the majority of voices from programmers, public interest advocates, and small cable operators raised concerns about the companies, the public microphone, at least for the first hour, featured community center after drug prevention group praising Comcast’s contributions of both money and personpower in the community.

After an initial complaint from someone who claimed that Comcast had trespassed on his property and conducted an unauthorized installation at his warehouse, the flood of supporters took to alternating microphones.

A representative of an afterschool program called Comcast a wonderful supporter; a diagnostic treatment center rep called Comcast an angel; a drug prevention center got carriage of programming by Comcast that others would not…. After a couple of plugs for FCC protection for public access channels, the parade of fans continued, including a Hispanic civil rights group, a community college foundation, a dance program for at-risk youth. The tenor of those comments could be summed up by one: “Comcast epitomizes ethical corporate citizenship.”

 That came after FCC Commissioner Michael Copps introduced the speakers by saying their voice was arguably more important than those of the industry figures on the panels that preceded them, but his preamble had suggested there were bigger problems with big media than at least the initial comments suggested, saying the country was “still in quite a serious fix with our media,” partly because there had been some “godawful decisions” made by previous FCC’s.

At press time, some dissenting voices had finally taken the mike to share some of Copp’s concern, with one saying Comcast’s role in the town “does not make for democracy or access,” and another citing Comcast’s attempts to defeat network neutrality. calling Comcast a big bully who would now become a big bully at the National Association of Broadcasters and the Recording Industry Association of America.

 A local professor cited disregard for workers rights. He also said he was concerned for his students employment prospects, citing possible deep job cuts. “the FCC should deny the application, he said. Then there was a call for protecting localism and diversity. “We don’t need ombsudmen at the FCC, we need leaders,” said one speaker.

At press time, a facility for disabled children was praising its partnership with Comcast. “Little Angels has learned that if Comcast makes a promise, they will provide,” said the facility’s rep, followed by a representative from the Emma Bowen Foundation (and an employee of Comcast), which, through support from broadcasters, particularly NBC, provides job training and mentoring to minority students.