The National Coalition of African-Owned Media took out a full-page ad in the Washington Post Monday to oppose the Comcast/NBCU merger.
In an open letter to President Obama, NCAAOM President Stanley Washington, a long-time vocal opponent of the deal, said his organization was preparing to file a lawsuit against the FCC for gross negligence in "not protecting African Americans in media."
Comcast has pledged to add 10 independent networks, with at least four of those with majority, though not 100%, African American control (another four of those will have Hispanic majority ownership). But that won't cut it as far as Washington and NCAAOM are concerned.
NCAAOM has threatened to boycott Comcast unless it adds independent channels 100% owned by African Americans as part of its joint venture proposal with Comcast. It made that a major point in the ad, saying that Comcast should set aside 50 channels, or 10% of its capacity--to channels wholly owned by African Americans.
Washington even quoted from a letter from then-Senator Obama to FCC Chairman Kevn Martin in Oct. 2007 saying "The commission has failed to further the goals of diversity in the media and...it is in no position to justify allowing for increased consolidation of the market." That letter was targeted at the FCC's review of media ownership rules. Martin ultimately choose only to loosen one of those rules--newspaper and broadcast cross-ownership-- leave the others alone, and simultaneously propose steps to boost minority ownership.
NCAAOM should be well-versed in the Martin correspondence. Martin, now an attorney with Patton Boggs, was recruited to help make the case against the deal and along with Washington is the only other person listed in an online "about us" page of the NCAAOM web site.
Comcast has also said it would expand its distribution of African American VOD content, including from Hip Hop on Demand, whose co-creator Will Griffin has had nice things to say about Comcast's "infrastructure of inclusion." If the deal goes through, Comcast has also committed to a $20 million capital fund to help minority entrepreneurs and 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.
Comcast/NBCU has also committed to boosting its spending on procurement from diverse suppliers, to boost philanthropy in underserved communities by 10% per year over the next three years, and to seek out more "diverse" programming relationships.
If the FCC allows the merger to go through without mandating that 50-channel set aside, as well as a condition barring layoffs, said Washington, the President will have sent a "loud and clear message" about his failure to deliver on his promise for change.
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.
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