Add Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) to the list of
legislators who have asked the FCC to approve the Comcast/NBCU deal.
In a letter to all five commissioners, Rush said that the deal should be
approved before the end of the year so the public can
"reap the benefits without delay."
He did not ask for any conditions on the deal,
according to a copy of the letter.
Rush cited Comcast's diversity commitments to
ownership, programming, procurement, employment and more as argument
for that public benefit, particularly for minority business owners who will get
to control 10 new cable channels over the next eight years
and the more immediate opportunity to own an Los Angeles TV station.
Comcast is divesting the station and has pledged
to seek a minority buyer.
He also cited pledges to make more diverse on
demand content available and to put $20 million into a venture capital
fund. Rush's shout-out came at about the same time that Rep. Maxine Waters was
taking aim at those diversity pledges, suggesting they were
insufficient and asking the FCC to "closely examine" the commitments,
and consider adding others, like requiring the sublease of broadcast channels
to diverse entities.
"Beyond the core issue of media
diversity," Rush wrote, "the parties have committed to take
significant steps to enhance their workplace recruitment, career development,
and supplier diversity practices. Some of the beneficiaries of these
commitments will include minority banks, minority law firms, and minority
suppliers of various goods and services." Rush said those commitments
"should be welcomed and must be acknowledged."
Rush took the opportunity to take a shot (though
not by name) at former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, currently a
partner at law firm Patton Boggs, who is representing opponents of the merger.
"I am aware that a former chairman of the commission, who
during his leadership of the agency did virtually nothing to advance minority
ownership opportunities in media or to diversity media voices and content, is
currently organizing opposition to the proposed
transaction," said Rush. He also said the FCC should view that former
chairman's intentions as "highly suspect and lacking in credibility."
Martin did propose a number of diversity initiatives during his tenure,
including suggesting channel sub-leasing to minorities with the same must-carry
rights and programming obligations as broadcasters. The FCC chairman called the
effort a chance to increase the diversity of voices while overcoming the
barriers to entry of buying or building a station. But critics including
Rainbow/PUSH founder Rev. Jesse Jackson called it a "poor consolation