NBCU Merger Review Goes on Road Tour

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The Federal
Communications Commission
has officially restarted its shot
clock on the review of Comcast’s
proposed deal for control of NBC
Universal, and it will have plenty
to chew on.

Last week saw its open docket in
the proceeding (No. 10-56 for those
who want to check it out themselves)
continue to swell as the
commission announced it would
hold a field forum (it did not say
“hearing”) on the deal in Chicago
on July 13. Additionally, the House
Judiciary Committee announced
its own field “hearing” on the deal
in Los Angeles scheduled for today
(June 7). Former FCC chairman
Kevin Martin is among those reportedly
set to testify.

At press time, the FCC had received
close to 25,000 comments in
the last 30 days alone. That number
continued to be driven by an online
complaint form provided by
the media-focused public-interest
group Free Press, an opponent of
the merger. Web surfers can fill in
their names or modify the template
and fire it off to the FCC. “I am writing
to voice my opposition to the
proposed Comcast-NBC merger …”
the form begins, ending with “The
FCC must stop this merger.”

Some high-profile commenters
added their voices in support of
the merger.

Asked last about the FCC’s decision
to hold the Chicago public
forum, FCC commissioner Mignon
Clyburn said she had already
heard from some of that
public in meetings on diversity
issues like hiring, procurement
and programming. But in separate
letters to FCC chairman
Julius Genachowski last week,
minority state legislators praised
Comcast, the controlling partner in the deal, for its record on
diversity.

The National Black Caucus of
State Legislators (NBCSL) cited
Comcast’s help in launching African
American-targeted cable
network TV One, its support of
BET and its work with the Urban
League, concluding that the combined
company would “promote
the important value of diversity.”
The deal also got a shout-out
from the National Conference of
Hispanic Legislators. NCHL national
chairman David Casas of
Georgia, in his letter to Genachowski,
said the group “strongly
believe[s] that the proposed combination
will only enhance Comcast’s
ability to positively impact
the lives of millions of Hispanic
Americans.” Casas said Comcast
has been a strong business and
community partner to the Hispanic
community.

In hearings on the Hill, Comcast chairman Brian Roberts has
pledged his allegiance to diversity,
and the company has pointed
out in its blog that almost 60%
of its employees are women or
minorities, including leaders in
three business lines: interactive
media, digital voice and highspeed
Internet.

Comcast’s diversity record is
certain to be a topic of interest at
the Judiciary Committee hearing
in Los Angeles. Committee member
Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) is expected
to have a lot to say. She has
already told the FCC she has concerns
about the deal’s effect on
diversity and has called for multiple
FCC field hearings, saying the
public needed “ample opportunity
to have an open dialogue with
the commission.”

Joining in the call for multiple
hearings was Free Press. After the
FCC said it would hold a forum
rather than a “hearing,” the latter
of which all commissioners would
be expected to attend, Free Press
policy counsel Corie Wright said:
“We are pleased that the commission
will be hosting a public
workshop on the Comcast-NBC
merger, and that Commissioners
Clyburn and Copps are expected
to attend. However, given the proposed
merger’s likely impact on
consumers and our media landscape,
a hearing that includes all
five FCC commissioners is key.”

At press time, the Judiciary
Committee had no plans to stream
its hearing, but that could change.
A spokesman said the committee
would be happy to work with an
outside party willing to do so. The
FCC will stream its July 13 forum.

The initial comments on the
deal, including petitions to deny,
are due June 21.

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