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Comcast commits $20 mil to fund

Minority-owned new media ventures to receive money

As federal regulators mull its proposed joint venture with NBC Universal, Comcast said it will commit at least $20 million to a fund for minority-owned new media ventures when the deal closes.

Comcast also said that it was boosting the number of independently owned and operated networks it had committed to adding to its cable service. They plan to add at least 10 new channels to their digital tier over the next 8 years. In its initial list of public interest pledges unveiled at the time the transaction was announced in December, Comcast said it would add six channels over three years.

Of the new channels, at least four will be ones in which African Americans own a majority of the equity. At least two of the channels would be launched in the first two years after the deal is closed.

Comcast’s new commitments came in a letter to Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), who held a House subcommittee field hearing on Thursday in Chicago on the implications of the joint venture.

Last month, on the eve of a contentious field hearing in Los Angeles, Comcast and NBC Universal unveiled a series of steps intended to increase their efforts to diversify programming and their workforce, with such actions as expanded recruitment efforts and internship programs. In its letter to Rush, the company also said it would expand distribution of African-American owned networks and minority content on its On Demand services.

Last week, Comcast announced a deal with a number of Hispanic groups to add a Latino to its board of directors within the first two years of the deal’s closing. It also said that networks in which Latinos have a substantial ownership stake will be among those independent channels added to its lineup.

NBC U already has agreed to divest its ownership interest in Spanish-language broadcast station KWHY-TV in Los Angeles. But in the letter to Rush, Comcast said “no additional divestiture of media assets is contemplated” in connection with the transaction.

Meanwhile, a group of 21 public interest groups and orgs, including the Writers Guild of America West and East, the Parents Television Council, Bloomberg, Wealth TV, the National Organization for Women, the National Telecommunications Cooperative Assn. and the Communication Workers of America announced the formation of a new org, the Coalition for Competition in Media, to oppose the proposed transaction as it now stands. They said that the “merged entity will exert a degree of power unknown in our nation’s media history.” A number of the entities already had expressed opposition to the deal.

The FCC is planning a field hearing on the Comcast-NBC U union on Tuesday in Chicago.

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