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Nonprofits Funded by Comcast Want You to Ignore Possible Impact of Comcast-NBC Merger on Media

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On July 13th, citizens from Chicago piled into a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) public hearing on the Comcast-NBC Universal merger to weigh in on the merger and give public comments that would become part of the FCC's legal record for and against the merger. The legal record would be referred to when making a decision on whether to allow Comcast to merge with NBC or not.

The hearing was held at Thorne Auditorium on Northwestern University's campus in Chicago. It was possibly the only public hearing the FCC will be holding on this merger in the country.

Each person in attendance had an opportunity to sign up and give two minutes of public testimony. About ninety people signed up. Most were from Chicago but some were from California and other parts of the country.

Those giving public testimony voiced their opinion on a media consolidation move that would put production and distribution into the hands of one company. This would make it a vertical merger. The merger would also mean that Comcast would control one in every five television viewing hours and could potentially push its competitors in the industry to raise prices on cable subscribers by charging them more for NBC content.

A person with the League of United Latin-American Citizens (LULAC) testified, "For several years, Comcast has been sponsoring our scholarship program." He explained that Comcast had sponsored community festivals, joined with residents to clean up neighborhoods, and helped plant flowers in the community, and said, "In these tough economic times, it's hard to find corporate partners."

Comcast joined LULAC's corporate alliance in 2006. Ironically, this was about the same time that LULAC was supporting FCC hearings in California, New York, and Texas on media diversity and the negative effects of media consolidation and concentration on staffing and programming as a result. In addition to LULAC, the Hispanic Media Coalition, the National Latino Media Council, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and the National Institute of Latino Policy supported the hearings.

LULAC's endorsement ran a bit contrary to what Green Line's Ken Wang, someone who had personally testified before Congress on this matter, claimed. He spoke of California and said, "last year [there] was a breakthrough study conducted that measured the impact of local Spanish-language TV news and having that available Spanish markets increased Hispanic voter turnout by about 5 to 10%." He added, "Comcast is about to inherit NBC, which tried to dismantle five of the top ten Hispanic media markets in this country." LULAC did not address how NBC (or General Electric) might influence the way Comcast handled diversity if the merger went through.

A representative from a community college foundation that serves around 42,000 by working to provide scholarships said, "Comcast has been a considerable corporate power and good corporate citizen. I have had the privilege to work with two Comcast employees who have sat on our foundation board." She added that without the support of Comcast, "we would not be able to provide the help that we provide to our students."

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for OpEdNews.com
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