Daphna Ziman, president of Cinemoi, the women-owned high-end lifestyle programming network, took aim at the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger in a statement Tuesday.
There is no Federal Communications Commission docket to post such comments in because the deal has yet to be filed with the commission, and there is even a question of whether it will have to be filed there at all. But the merger will definitely get Justice Department scrutiny at least and FCC advice in the process at a minimum if past is prologue (which it may or may not be in a Trump administration).
Whichever agency does the vetting, Ziman wants them to know she thinks the merger could adversely impact independent programmers.
"The lack of women and minority ownership is a threat to diversity of viewpoints and equality," she said in the statement, which her representatives also said was sent to members of Congress. "Cinemoi looks forward to supporting the FCC and Congress in creating protections which address these concerns."
"Gender diversity in media is absolutely critical for our democracy, never more glaring than now" she said. "This proposed merger could have serious public interest consequences."
"We will use Time Warner content as a 'launching pad' for new, mobile-first packages that better meet consumer demand," AT&T said in response to Ziman's statement. "We think Time Warner will help us persuade other providers to join these offerings. And when we innovate, we think others in the industry will innovate and experiment as well."
Cinemoi launched on DirecTV (now owned by AT&T) in September 2012 but was dropped in July 2013. DirecTV said it was for nonpayment. Responding to a Facebook query about the channel's absence, DirecTV said at the time: "Cinemoi Channel 259, a network that paid for programming air time has unfortunately been removed for non-payment of fees. At this time, we are uncertain if this channel will be returning." It wasn't, though Verizon did subsequently pick it up for FiOS TV.
Ziman is a familiar access advocate in D.C. She was among the panelists at an FCC workshop last April on issues related to independent programmers and access to distribution.
She told FCC officials, including Media Bureau chief Bill Lake, that the industry is dominated by greedy, monopolistic gatekeeper media conglomerates that ensure a "pay for play" reality. Unless an independent network can get exposure, and as a result get valued by advertisers, such independent networks are effectively "a one-way ticket to bankruptcy," she said.