Witnesses gathered at a House Judiciary Committee field hearing on the Comcast-NBC Universal (NBCU) merger offered differing views on the transaction’s impact on media diversity. Supporters of the deal touted the number of minorities in the Comcast corporate hierarchy, while opponents pointed to NBCU’s acquisition of Spanish broadcaster Telemundo as an example of how media consolidation diminishes minority voices and diversity. Led by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (DMI), the hearing was convened on Monday at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. Testifying that the $13.75 billion transaction announced last December will promote media diversity, NBCU executive vice president Paula Madison cited voluntary commitments submitted by the merger parties to the FCC that include the addition of two new independent cable channels annually to the post-merger entity’s lineup for the first three years. Half of the new channels, added Madison, would also boast substantial minority ownership. Describing Comcast’s minority makeup as “vastly superior to any other media company,” Will Griffin, the president of the Hip Hop OnDemand channel, pointed out Comcast’s number of minority executives in arguing that Comcast “has the best infrastructure of inclusion to build upon in the media industry” and that “African American consumers and policy-makers have more potential leverage over Comcast than any other media company.” Other witnesses, however, warned against unconditional FCC and Justice Department approval of the merger as they noted that NBCU’s acquisition of Telemundo—which led to the dismantling of Telemundo’s local news offerings and the appointment of a Telemundo board on which no Hispanics currently serve—is instructive with respect to the combined Comcast-NBCU’s potential impact upon diversity. Calling it “troubling” that various independent and minority programmers have chosen to maintain their silence on the merger, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) said the FCC’s merger review “should not be rushed through” and should carefully consider a variety of public interest factors that include “promoting diversity of license holdings."
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Comcast-NBC merger hearing focuses on diversity
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