The Writers Guild of America East is wants the government to require that Comcast provide $100 million for news and public affairs programming if the Comcast-NBC Universal deal is approved.
In a letter Wednesday to both the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department, executives of the union said the money — $10 million a year over 10 years — is needed to offset the harms that the deal potentially could do to public affairs and news programming.
"The proposed merger between Comcast and NBC/Universal would further consolidate the production and distribution of news and public affairs programming relied on by the American public," said the letter signed by WGAE President Michael Winship and Executive Director Lowell Peterson.
"Fewer and fewer entities creating news and public affairs programming means less diversity of news content. Fewer points of views are presented, fewer stories are reported in depth," the letter said.
The letter said the Comcast/NBCU merger would result in a large single company "producing content and acting as sole distributor for millions of Americans."
"We respectfully request that if media conglomerates insist on being permitted to consolidate their hold on the media marketplace, in exchange they can be required to contribute assets to public programming."
The letter said the money should be set aside "for the creation of thoughtful, independent, well-researched public affairs programs for television and the Internet."
"It would address the most essential concern we have," he told TheWrap, noting worries that, at least temporarily, Americans could lose out on public affairs and news programming. He called the money "barely a drop in the bucket."
Peterson suggested the most logical way for the payment to work would be to provide the money to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The resulting programming could be aired both on television and cable, but not necessarily on Comcast/NBCU, he said.
In a statement, Sena Fitzmaurice Comcast’s VP-government relations, called the request “a thoughtful proposal” but rejected the idea that Comcast doesn't support public programming.
“As an original and ongoing supporter and funder of C-SPAN, Comcast has had a long commitment to independent public affairs content,” she said.
“It is up to the Congress and the public broadcasting community to determine the appropriate ways to fund public broadcasting to meet its mission."