Forty-six congressmen -- many from the Congressional Black Caucus and from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus – Thursday night called on the Federal Communications Commission to hold off approving Comcast’s deal for NBC Universal until a series of public hearings can be scheduled.
In a letter sent to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski and signed first by U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the congressmen expressed concern about Comcast and NBCU's record with diversity.
“As members of Congress, including many from the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus, we are most interested in how the applicants to this merger will involve underserved communities and minorities in media programming and ownership opportunities,” said the letter.
It cites as among the concerns a report by the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility giving Comcast a grade of 50 out of 100 on diversity of its workforce and a report by the National Hispanic Media Coalition giving NBCU an overall C+ grade and an F grade for “creative executives” for not having any Latinos in its creative executive roster.
Comcast and NBU officials in congressional hearings have questioned the accuracy of information used in the assessments.
The letter calls public hearings, “imperative,” saying they are necessary to provide “an open dialogue with the commission about how this merger will affect local communities—particularly minority and low-income communities.”
Comcast and NBCU parent General Electric have been hoping to complete their $30 billion deal this fall.
Scheduling hearings could further delay approval.
Besides asking for hearings, the congressmen also asked the FCC to get Comcast and NBCU to answer publicly five pages of questions of questions on diversity in ownership and programming, employment, channel carriage, cable pricing and labor policies.
Among them are several asking about the amount of content supplied the network by independent producers.
“These questions include a detailed analysis of the companies’ employment of women and minorities in executive leadership, management positions, and contracting opportunities,” the congressmen said in the letter. “We also need to understand what Comcast and NBC have done together to foster creative freedom and diversity in media programming, distributions and ownership.”
“We sincerely hope that you will continue to fulfill your commitment to the American people and ensure that the FCC gives the Comcast-NBC merger an exhaustive and thorough review,” said the letter.
Comcast declined immediate comment, as did an aide to Genachowski.