The Minority Media & Telecommunications council has
endorsed the AT&T/T-Mobile merger, the first time in its quarter-century
history it has endorsed any merger, saying it does so through the
"prism" of securing equal opportunities for minorities in the media.
MMTC says it has done its due diligence on the deal, will
monitor evidence and reserves the right to "modify" its position if
it is wrong, but that given the public interest benefits it has identified, the
merger is needed to ease capacity constraints that could drive up prices and
hurt adoption, particularly for minority consumers. It also pointed out that
the NAACP also supports the deal.
AT&T has said it needs T-Mobile's spectrum--it has
proposed a $39 billion merger--to deliver next-generation wireless broadband
capacity to 97% of the country. Studies have found that minorities tend to be
heavier users of wireless for their broadband connectivity than the general
population. That is the prime benefit MMTC sees.
MMTC says the deal would be a short-term solution that
"would buy the nation the time it needs to implement a long-term cure for
the spectrum crunch through such mechanisms as spectrum incentive auctions and
repurposing of some government spectrum." The FCC last week asked for a
raft of info from both AT&T and T-Mobile as part of its merger review,
including justifications for its assertions of a capacity crunch and the ways
it has been or could be addressing that crunch.
MMTC also argues that the deal will extend AT&T's
diversity hiring practices and "neutrality toward unionization."
AT&T has made the point to legislators that it is the only unionized work
force among the major carriers.
In a conference call with reporters, MMTC President David
Honig said that while AT&T supported MMTC's latest conference with a
$100,000 sponsorship, the company did not provide any funds in connection with
its support of the deal and added that MMTC would have rejected such funds if
MMTC's support of the deal comes the same day that Sprint
and others plan to file petitions to deny the merger Tuesday (May 31), the
deadline for such petitions.
Not all groups representing communities of color were so
sanguine about the merger.
The National Hispanic Media Coalition plans to officially
opposed the deal in a petition being filed today (May 31). NHMC said it had
also done its due diligence, and that despite what it said was AT&T's
distinguished and commendable record of outreach and philanthropy to Hispanics,
that was outweighed by "the negative long-term harms that this acquisition
will have on consumers, generally, and people of color in particular."
The Center for Media Justice also said it thought the
deal would lead to higher prices, fewer jobs, and be a "real threat"
to minorities and the rural poor.