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Monday, Mar 20, 2023

Merger Hearing Focuses on Diversity

The past performance by Comcast to provide minority programming came under scrutiny during a hearing on the cable giant’s proposed merger with NBC Universal. The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony June 7 from a number of witnesses critical of combining the two companies over concerns that both have fallen short in having adequate minority representation in its management ranks and in its programming. The five-member committee, meeting at the California Science Center, also heard from content providers who had only praise for Comcast in putting minority programs on its cable system. The estimated $30 billion merger needs approval from the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice. If the deal goes through, Comcast – which has more than 25 million cable subscribers – would have under its control the NBC broadcast network, Universal Studios and other entertainment assets. None of the 250 channels Comcast offers is 100 percent minority owned or widely distributed, said Stanley Washington, president and CEO of the National Coalition of African American Owned Media. A merger could result in favoritism toward other cable networks at the expense of those few that are totally minority owned, Washington said. “We have no opportunity to thrive or survive,” Washington said. Speaking in favor of the merger was Alfred Liggins, chairman of TV One, a cable channel aimed at the African American market. Comcast owns 33 percent of TV One. Other cable providers were not interested in working with TV One, but Comcast executives understood the value and importance of African American viewers, Liggins said. “They gave us significant exposure on their cable systems, which helped create momentum with advertisers,” Liggins said. Prior to the hearing, NBC and Comcast announced efforts that would improve diversity in operations and programming, including adding two independently owned and operated cable networks in the next three years; creating diversity advisory councils; and bolstering minority programming.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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