Minority media group takes on Obama over Comcast-NBC Universal merger

A minority media group is taking its opposition to the Comcast-NBC Universal merger directly to President Obama, citing his promises to foster diversity and fight corruption.

The National Coalition of African American Owned Media (NCAAOM) bought a full-page ad in the Washington Post on Monday panning the Comcast-NBC Universal deal, which is under review in the Justice Department and at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).


The ad is written specifically for Obama. 

It includes an excerpt of a letter he sent to the FCC while he was a senator that advocated for greater diversity in media ownership.

"As a promising young senator from Illinois, you were a longtime advocate for consumers, and a champion for diversity, in the face of increasing media consolidation," the ad says.

The group demands a merger condition that would prevent Comcast from laying off any employees, describing the merger as an important consideration in federal employment policy. It also contends that swift regulatory approval would cast doubt on Obama's commitment to ethical government.

"Make no mistake, an approval of this merger is an affirmation of heavy-handed, influential and expensive lobbyist practice, and sends a loud and clear message about your administration’s failure to deliver the change you promised us," it says.

The group said it plans to bring a lawsuit against the FCC for "not protecting African Americans in media."

It contends that Comcast has neglected to offer diverse programming even though it has more African-American subscribers than any other television distributor.

"Despite the fact that Comcast, its executives and shareholders have built their company and personal wealth off the income of African Americans, Comcast Cable currently allocates none of its channel capacity, nor any of its $8-billion programming budget, to networks that are African American wholly owned and widely distributed to their nearly 23-million subscribers," the ad says.

Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts and Comcast chief operating officer and incoming NBC Universal chief Steve Burke paid themselves collectively more than $61 million last year, "which is more than they paid African American owned media combined," according to NCAAOM.

The group asks for a merger condition mandating that Comcast devote "10 percent of its channel capacity (50 channels), and 10 percent of its programming budget ($800-million) to networks that are African American wholly owned within six months of the merger’s regulatory approval."

Comcast says diversity has been a key consideration in its practices and that it will expand its diversity commitments post-merger.

It promised in June to add at least three independent cable channels with substantial minority ownership interest over the next three years, to bring on more minority advisory groups, and to spend $7 million more on advertising in minority-owned media next year.

More in Technology

Comcast critics make final push to block Time Warner Cable merger

Read more »