Comcast-NBC union needs a closer look

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There’s something rotten in Washington, D.C. More specifically, the stench is not in the proverbial domain of Denmark, it is at the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC approved the merger of Comcast, the nation’s largest deliverer of cable television in America, with NBC Universal, one of the biggest platforms for TV and movie entertainment, without releasing the Triennial Report which is mandated by Congress in the Communications Act that was signed by President Clinton.

First of all, a merger that creates a conglomerate of this size is bound to have ill effects on the market, especially where small—see minority- and female-owned companies and entrepreneurs—are concerned.

This turn of events, however, has a particular malodorous scent where Blacks and other minorities are concerned, for other reasons.

The Triennial Report is way overdue. It should have been filed in 2009. Part of this report, Section 257, deals with “identifying and eliminating—market entry barriers for entrepreneurs and other small businesses.” This report has been filed every interval (1997, 2000, 2003 and 2006) since the law came into being, except 2009.

The National Coalition of African American Owned Media (NCAAOM) is calling foul. This is not a partisan issue. Project 21, a conservative think tank that deals with Black issues, is also crying bloody murder.

It was reported in The Hill, a publication that covers Congress, that the merger will enhance minority opportunities with 10 new independent cable networks, eight of which would service Black, Latino, Asian and other minorities, plus $20 million in venture capital for minority entrepreneurs.

That sounds good and it might actually be good, but why did the FCC not file the Triennial Report? What is it hiding?

The support of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a President Obama appointee, was given to the merger less than a week after both companies entered into “memorandums of understanding” with Black, Latino and Asian special-interest groups, including the NAACP, the National Urban League and the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.

The NCAAOM is saying a conflict of interest exists because the aforementioned minority interest groups took donations from Comcast and NBCU.

The memorandum of understanding states that “NBCU will strive to ensure the presentation of diverse viewpoints…by considering ‘suggestions from the African American Council of individuals’ who could be considered for such participation.”

The Hill called it the Joint Diversity Council.

Who sits on this council and by what mandate do they represent the entirety of the Black, Latino, Asian, Native American and other minority populations?

There are too many questions here. This deal that was made in the “memorandums of understanding” might be workable, but there needs to be more clarity and transparency.

The first step to that goal is filing the Triennial Report before the end of the month.

(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune.)

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