I spent much of Monday at a Los Angeles field hearing for the Comcast and NBC Universal transaction, joint venture, deal, whatever you want to call it (the companies do not call it a merger), and the media congloms took a drubbing on the issue of diversity from a number of public interest and watchdog groups, not to mention Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). Even the lone House Judiciary Committee Republican who trekked out from D.C., Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), seemed sympathetic to the idea that there was a role for government to expand opportunities in the media and questioned the disappearance of mass appeal shows like “The Cosby Show.”
As I point out in my piece today, the wisdom still is that the deal will get the greenlight from federal regulators, the question is what the final transaction will look like given the conditions that may be placed upon it. And for the time being, Comcast and NBC U are the targets in many ways because they have put themselves in the line of fire as they seek government approval.
While there have been some strides in diversifying the faces of primetime since 1999, the infamous primetime lineup in which none of the new shows featured any minorities in lead or regular roles, the more powerful statements at the hearing focused on the lack of diversity in the executive ranks, in particular those who can give a yes or no to series.
The Judiciary Committee will not be voting on the deal, as that authority rests with the Department of Justice and the FCC. Until then, among lawmakers, it is about the leverage of very public forums to extract additional concessions from the two companies, which already unveiled a series of proposals over the weekend.