Legislators Call For Multiple Comcast/NBCU Hearings

Members want full review on diversity, labor and community relations
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Some four dozen legislators led by
Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) have called on the FCC to hold multiple hearings on
the Comcast/NBCU merger and require the companies to answer many questions,
primarily on diversity issues.

The members, many from the
Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses, said the companies' diversity, labor
and community relations efforts need to be "fully reviewed" before
the FCC can pass judgment on the proposed $30 billion joint venture.

"It is imperative that the
public be given ample opportunity to have an open dialogue with the commission
about how this merger will affect local communities," they wrote.

The commission has not held public
hearings on a merger in a decade, but the groups argue that simply speaks to
the politics of the period--Republican administrations--rather than a general
precedent.

They cited report cards on
workforce diversity by The National Hispanic Media Coalition and Hispanic
Association of Corporate Responsibility that suggested the companies still had
some work to do on that front.

In addition to the public
hearings, the legislators want the FCC to require Comcast and NBCU to answer a
host of questions including providing "detailed" analysis of their
employment of women and minorities in executive and management positions,
contracting opportunities, and fostering "creative freedom and diversity
in programming, diversity, and ownership."

Back in April, Waters had asked
the chairman to extend the comment period on its review of the proposed
Comcast-NBCU merger so that the public would get to weigh in more fully. The
FCC had denied a request by Media Access Project for an extension of the final
comment deadline on the deal from June 17 to Aug. 1. The FCC pointed out that
it had already established a 90-day window for comments and pleadings "two
or three times" as the period for previous mergers.

But the commission has since
extended the comment period, and actually stopped the clock on its review of
the deal, to give Comcast and NBCU time to file follow-up reports on the economic
impact of the deal and its affect on online video distribution. The companies
turned in those report cards this week and the clock should be starting back up
soon.

Citing and saluting those moves,
Waters took the opportunity to press her case once again.

Comcast had no comment on Waters' letter, but in a Hill hearing on the deal Comcast Chairman Brian Roberts pledged to continue to promote diversity. And in a blog posting last February, its chief diversity officer pointed to examples of that commitment including that fact that "almost 60%" of its employees are women or minorities, that women are in leadership positions in its headquarters region of Philadelphia and atop three of its business lines: Interactive Media, Digital Voice, and High Speed Internet. Reports also said Comcast was named one of the top 50 organizations for multicultural business opportunities by Diversitybusiness.com, and one of the 50 best companies for Latinas by Latina Style magazine, and one of the top companies for Hispanics in general by Hispanic Business magazine.

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