Add Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) to the list of legislators that have asked the Federal Communications Commission to approve the Comcast/NBCU deal.
In a letter to all five commissioners, Rush said that the deal should be approved before the end of the year so the public can "reap the benefits without delay."
He did not ask for any conditions on the deal, according to a copy of the letter.
Rush cited Comcasts diversity commitments to ownership, programming, procurement, employment and more as
arguing for that public benefit, particularly for minority business owners that will get to control 10 new cable channels over the next eight years and the more immediate opportunity to own an L.A. TV station.
Comcast is divesting the station and has pledged to seek a minority buyer.
He also cited pledges to make more diverse on-demand content available and to put $20 million into a venture
capital fund. Rush's shout-out came at about the same time that Rep. Maxine Waters was taking aim at those
diversity pledges, suggesting they were insufficient and asking the FCC to "closely examine" the commitments, and consider adding others, like requiring the sublease of broadcast channels to diverse entities.
"Beyond the core issue of media diversity," he wrote, "the parties have committed to take significant steps to enhance their workplace recruitment, career development, and supplier diversity practices. Some of the beneficiaries of these commitments will include minority banks, minority law firms, and minority suppliers of various goods and services."
Rush said those commitments "should be welcomed and must be acknowledged."
He took the opportunity to take a shot (though not by name) at former FCC chairman Kevin Martin, currently a partner at law firm Patton Boggs, who is representing opponents of the merger. "I am aware that a former chairman of the commission, who during his leadership of the agency did virtually nothing to advance minority ownerwship opportunities in media or to diversity media voices and content, is currenly organizing opposition to the proposed transaction," said Rush. He also said the FCC should view that former chairman's intentions as "highly suspect and lacking in credibility."
Martin did propose a number of diversity initiatives during his tenure, including suggesting channel sub-leasing to minorities with the same must-carry rights and programming obligations as broadcasters. The FCC chairman called the effort a chance to increase the diversity of voices while overcoming the barriers to entry of buying or building a station. But critics, including Rainbow/PUSH founder Rev. Jesse Jackson, called it a "poor consolation prize." .