Comcast executive vice president David L. Cohen met with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Tuesday, with concerns raised about the impact that its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable would have on minority-owned content providers and independent channels.
Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), who said he attended the final 45 minutes of the one-hour session, said that he raised concerns about what will happen “when you are talking about the largest vertically integrated media company buying the second largest.”
“If we were to see independent programmers falter, I think it will be to the detriment of the American public,” he said.
Cohen’s presentation focused on the work that the company has done with the Latino community, but lawmakers also asked questions during the session.
In August, Cardenas and other House lawmakers called on Comcast to make a commitment to carry Latino-focused channels, arguing that many independent programmers operate on an “uneven playing field” and noting that the newly merged company would reach over 90% of Latino households. But Cohen wrote in a letter that its offerings of Latino-focused content was “best in class in the industry.” The company has pointed to its support from independent programmers like Ovation and Hallmark Channel and groups like the Latino Coalition and the NAACP.
“My only caveat is that the importance of independent and Hispanic programming, which we are excelling at delivering, should not be confused by parochial business interests seeking more money and distribution for themselves,” Cohen wrote in a letter to the lawmakers.
Among the companies that publicly opposes the merger is Entravision, which operates 58 TV stations. While Comcast has retained dozens of lobbyists to pitch the merger to lawmakers, Entravision also has retained Ogilvy Government Relations to make its case, spending $50,000 this year, according to publicly filed lobbying reports. Comcast has spent a total of $11.7 million on lobbying so far this year, including on the merger and other issues like piracy.