Comcast/NBCU Deal Critic Slams FCC For Tardy Triennial Report

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The National Coalition of African American Owned Media branded the FCC "incompetent and unfair" for not filing its triennial report on eliminating market entry barriers to small businesses before it vetted the Comcast/NBCU merger proposal.

That complaint came in a press release issued late Thursday as the FCC commissioners vet the FCC transition team's conditional approval of the $30 billion deal.

"FCC Chairman Genachowski's shameful disregard to [sic] fulfill the statutory mandate of the Communications Act is utterly appalling and frustrating on many fronts, especially in light of Chairman Genachowski's recent submission of the Comcast-NBCU merger order to the FCC Commissioners prior to filing the overdue Triennial Report to Congress," said NCAAOM President Stanley E. Washington.

"The FCC had sufficient time to produce the report and their flagrant disregard of their critical obligations to the law is no longer tolerable," said Washington.

While Comcast has signed memoranda of understanding with various minority advocacy groups, including promising to add 10 minority-controlled channels to its programming lineup over the next eight years, NCAAOM says that is far from enough.

NCAAOM has been a long-standing critic of the deal whose "About Us" section on its Web site identifies only two individuals, Washington and former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, a partner at law firm Patton Boggs who has represented a number of opponents of the deal. It has threatened to boycott Comcast if it did not add 50 channels 100% owned by minorities. Martin himself caught flak for reports that did not get issued on time when he was chairman, notable among them its 2006 cable competition report, which wasn't issued until early 2009.

NCAAOM is also a member of the Coalition for Competition in Media, whose members include deal critics Bloomberg (another Martin client), Media Access Project, Common Cause, and Wealth TV, among others.

Among its promised diversity initiatives, Comcast has also said it would expand its distribution of African American VOD content, commit $20 million to a 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.

The FCC is widely expected to vote to approve the deal as early as next week, with the Justice Department reportedly working closely with the commission on coordinating their respective reviews.

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