Legislators Call For Multiple Comcast/NBCU Hearings

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Some four dozen legislators led by Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) have called on the Federal Communications Commissio to hold multiple hearings on the prposed Comcast/NBCU merger and require the companies to answer many questions, primarily on diversity issues.

The members, many from the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses, said the companies' diversity, labor and community relations efforts need to be "fully reviewed" before the FCC can pass judgment on the proposed $30 billion joint venture.

"It is imperative that the public be given ample opportunity to have an open dialogue with the commission about how this merger will affect local communities," they wrote.

The commission has not held public hearings on a merger in a decade, but the groups argue that simply speaks to the politics of the period--Republican administrations--rather than a general precedent.

They cited report cards on workforce diversity by The National Hispanic Media Coalition and Hispanic Association of Corporate Responsibility that suggested the companies still had some work to do on that front.

In addition to the public hearings, the legislators want the FCC to require Comcast and NBCU to answer a host of questions including providing "detailed" analysis of their employment of women and minorities in executive and management positions, contracting opportunities, and fostering "creative freedom and diversity in programming, diversity, and ownership."

Back in April, Waters had asked the chairman to extend the comment period on its review of the proposed Comcast-NBCU merger so that the public would get to weigh in more fully. The FCC had denied a request by Media Access Project for an extension of the final comment deadline on the deal from June 17 to Aug. 1. The FCC pointed out that it had already established a 90-day window for comments and pleadings "two or three times" as the period for previous mergers.

But the commission has since extended the comment period, and actually stopped the clock on its review of the deal, to give Comcast and NBCU time to file follow-up reports on the economic impact of the deal and its affect on online video distribution. The companies turned in those report cards this week and the clock should be starting back up soon.

Citing and saluting those moves, Waters took the opportunity to press her case once again.

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