December 30, 2010; Source: New York Times | The proposed merger of Comcast and NBC Universal (and Telemundo) has garnered opposition from a who's who listing of nonprofit public interest groups. At various times, the opposition line-up included Common Cause, the Media Access Project, the National Consumers League, the National Coalition of African-American Owned Media, the Greenlining Institute, and the National Organization for Women, in addition to various labor groups, all united under the banner of the Coalition for Competition in Media.
But Comcast has also gotten its share of nonprofit support, for example, at a hearing in Chicago where the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, and numerous other groups, "flood(ed) the microphones with talk of corporate citizenry and how Comcast had delivered on promises to them," according to Salon.com.
Comcast is tucking various benefits and incentives into the merger plan to win support from various constituencies. One is apparently aimed at the nonprofit press. In the merger plan, Comcast pledges to create partnerships between nonprofit news outlets and five of the ten NBC stations that are directly owned by NBC Universal. The model would be the partnership between NBC-owned KNSD and voiceofsandiego.org, a nonprofit news organization that has been covered here in the NPQ Newswire.
NBC operates other stations in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, Miami, San Jose, Calif., Dallas/Fort Worth, Washington D.C., and West Hartford, Conn. The head of the FCC, Julius Genachowski, appears prepared to support the merger so long as Comcast agrees to various conditions. The net neutrality coalition opposing the merger might find it hard to counter the various packages of incentives and promises that Comcast is willing to pledge, like this nonprofit partnership idea or its commitment to $10 a month internet broadband access in low-income areas or promises for minority hiring, contracting, and equity ownership opportunities.
If the deal is approved and Comcast holds to its end of the bargain, nonprofit news outlets might be participants in a merger that will control one-fifth of all the television viewing hours in the United States.—Rick Cohen