Comcast/NBCU Gets Pounded, Praised

Following the pattern a pattern of dueling views of the proposed merger since its inception last fall, Comcast/NBCU deal drew fire and praise Monday in a House Judiciary Committee Hearing on the deal, according to the prepared testimony of a number of witnesses.
Taking a lead role in the hearing was Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who has called for Federal Communications Commission field hearings and close scrutiny of the deal. She said Monday she was not opposed to the merger, but had concerns about further consolidation and "serious questions" about the deal, which she said should not be "rushed through," according to her opening statement at the hearing.

Waters also noted that some people who were scheduled to testify had decided not to, suggesting they were afraid. "It is very troublesome that many independent and minority programmers, producers, writers, and directors have been afraid to voice their concerns for fear of blacklisting, or other forms of retaliation within their industries," she said.

Samuel Kang, an attorney with the Greenlining Institute, said the merger could have a "profound negative impact" on jobs, diversity and content. He claimed both companies have a poor record on promoting diverse voices and local content. He also said the deal would be a melding or similar corporate cultures of "gut, cut and strut."
"Comcast and NBC both say they are serious about diversity [including announcing a raft of new or expanded commitments in advance of the hearing, but the truth is, both struggle when it comes to the number of minorities within their workforce and management who actually have the ability to hire or influence content," he said.
Will Griffin, president of African American-targeted Hip Hop On Demand, painted a starkly different picture.

He blamed advertisers for not paying for the viewers minority-targetted media were delivering, and in his case delivering thanks to the help he got from Comcast, which carries the channel.

Griffin said that the minority makeup of the company is "is vastly superior to any other media company and is eons ahead of the advertising, telecommunications, and financial services industries."

He suggested that it helped to have minorities in high places at Comcast, saying they got marketing support from "African-American general managers who run the cable systems in Chicago, Washington, DC, Houston, South Florida and the entire western region of the United States," as well as help from customer service teams "who are largely African-American and supervised by an African-American female SVP," he said, adding "It certainly helps when explaining our channel to subscribers."

Griffin said that Comcast, acting as his syndicator, has almost doubled his distribution with carriage on Cox, Insight on Bresnan.

Griffin gave two reasons for backing the deal:"Comcast has the best Infrastructure of Inclusion to build upon in the media industry, and African-Americans consumers and policy-makers have more potential leverage over Comcast than any other media company."

John Eggerton

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.