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Comcast Ups Minority Deal Ante With 20/10 Diversity Proposal

Comcast has committed to a $20 million capital fund to help minority entrepreneurs and says it will offer 10 independent networks in the first eight years of a merged unit with NBC Universal, upping the ante from the six independently owned channels over three years in its initial public-interest pledge.

That came in a letter from Comcast to Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) in advance of Thursday's Chicago field hearing on the proposed Comcast/NBCU joint venture.

Comcast has made a variety of diversity pledges it says will kick in if the government approves the deal.

Comcast had already said that at least half of those original six independent channel commitments would have a significant minority interest. In the letter it upped that commitment to four channels with African-American ownership and clarified that "significant" means "a majority of equity." It also said that at least two of those channels would launch in the first two years following the close of the deal.

It has already pledged four of those independent channel additions to Hispanic owners per commitments announced last week, according to Comcast.

Comcast also said it was committing to expand its distribution of African American video-on-demand content, including from Hip Hop on Demand, whose co-creator Will Griffin was on the witness list at the Hill hearing with nice things to say about Comcast's "infrastructure of inclusion," as well as commitment to using "commercially reasonable efforts" to provide "first priority" to minority ownership groups if it decides to sell any TV stations, cable systems or channels.

The cable giant added that it was not contemplating having to spin off any more assets beyond KWHY-TV Los Angeles. That is the Spanish-language independent it has pledged to try to find a minority buyer for.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.