Jackson PUSHES Comcast For 10% Minority Basic Set-Aside

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The Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition wants Comcast to set aside 10% of its basic tier for networks "owned and controlled by people of color."

The organization also wants both Comcast and NBC Universal to spend 25% of their ad and marketing budgets and the same percentage of "vendor dollars" on minority-owned firms.

"We want to make sure that independently owned and controlled minority cable networks don't find it harder to gain carriage if this deal happens," said Jackson in written testimony for the July 8 House Communications Subcommittee field hearing in Chicago on the deal. Jackson did not deliver the testimony at the hearing, according to an observer on site.

Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the civil rights community held out great hope that the emerging cable industry would be reflective of communities of color in programming, ownership and staffing," he said. "Our community hoped to not only own cable networks but cable franchises as well. But this simply hasn't happened."

Those are just a couple of a number of conditions Jackson wants the FCC to impose on any approval of the Comcast/NBCU joint venture. Others include on job training, hiring and promotion, recruitment and mentoring.

Jackson said the deal was perhaps the last, best opportunity to address "critical issues" in global communications, which he called the twin national challenges of "creating jobs and helping to connect every American, especially people of color, to vitally needed news, information and broadband internet services."

Comcast has announced a number of diversity initiatives, including pledges on minority ad and vendor spending -- though not at the 25% level Jackson and Rainbow are seeking -- as well as on recruitment and staffing, philanthropy and more. It has recently expanded those commitments, including adding 10 independent networks to its digital lineup over the next eight years, at least four of them African-American-controlled.

Jackson also called on the companies to publish "the percentage of people of color employed by NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC and set aggressive benchmarks to ensure they reach parity in staffing."

According to a source at the Chicago hearing, it took about two hours Thursday morning and featured Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) echoing her concerns about the deal expressed at the House Judiciary Committee hearing in L.A. June 7, and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) criticizing former FCC's for a lack of attention to diversity.

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