LOS ANGELES-- The National Coalition of African American Owned Media (NCAAOM) filed an opposition to the Comcast-NBCU merger for its non-existent carriage of 100% African American owned channels widely distributed on its platform to approximately 24 million homes.
Stanley E. Washington, NCAAOM President & CEO stated, "The time has come for Comcast to know that African Americans will no longer live on the Comcast plantation. Comcast must immediately do business with African American owned media in a significant way. Until they do so, we're continuing to boycott and actively campaign to have African American families and our supporters disconnect Comcast services."
Washington continued, "Our community represents up to 40% of Comcast's subscriber base which means that we are paying them at least $15 billion a year. By not supporting African American ownership in a significant way, Comcast denies the African American community the same opportunity they afford others. We continue to advocate strongly for 100% African American channel ownership because Comcast has a history of requiring equity for distribution from independent channel owners. Further, in order to protect the integrity of our content and to build multiple long-term owners, we seek to reduce the reliance on private equity which typically has mandatory five to seven year exit points which forces a significant reduction in African American ownership control. The overall lack of African American ownership is a national disgrace and continues one of our nation's most important unfinished agendas."
Comcast brings in approximately $3 billion per month, $36 billion per year, from nearly 24 million cable subscribers. Based on the large African American populated cities served by Comcast, we estimate there are millions of African American subscribers who contribute approximately 40% or $15 billion of Comcast's annual revenue. Because of the enormous support that the African American community has shown Comcast over four decades, we find it unconscionable that none of the 250 plus channels that are offered on the Comcast platform are 100% African American owned and widely distributed.
Further, in many of the U.S. cities where Comcast has a dominant share of the cable market, African Americans comprise a majority or near majority of the population. For example, in Philadelphia --- the city in which Comcast is headquartered --- African Americans make up more than 43 percent of the city's population. A little more than half of all residents of Washington, D.C. are African American. In Detroit, 8 out of 10 residents are African American. Other Comcast markets with high concentrations of African American subscribers include: Atlanta, Baltimore, Birmingham, Chicago, Jackson, MS, Memphis, New Orleans, Oakland, CA, Pittsburgh, Raleigh-Durham and many more.
Nevertheless, the availability of African American wholly-owned media does not reflect these statistics. Indeed, not one of the networks on Comcast's cable television platform is 100% African American owned and widely distributed. Even channels that carry African American targeted content are not 100% owned by African American companies. Viacom owns BET and Comcast owns 33% of TV One. The proposed merger will perpetuate or even worsen the lack of 100% African American owned cable networks. The deal will reduce competition by permitting Comcast- NBCU to play favoritism to their massive portfolio of 44 owned cable networks, and more to be launched in the future, in lieu of 100% African American owned channels which will never get widely distributed on the Comcast platform. So we have no opportunity to survive and thrive. And to support these facts, please refer to the FCC Carriage Complaint filed January 5, 2010, by the Tennis Channel against Comcast for this very reason. Additionally, Comcast was caught blocking and slowing down competing video content on their broadband platform which recently resulted in a class action lawsuit against Comcast in which they settled in the amount of $16 million for their deplorable behavior.
The 2009 compensation packages of Brian Roberts, Chairman and Steve Burke, Chief Operating Officer of Comcast, were in excess of $35 million each. These two men, Brian Roberts and Steve Burke, paid themselves significantly more than what Comcast paid to wholly-owned African American media collectively.
Comcast spends approximately $7 billion per year on content from cable networks and less than $2 million per year is allocated to wholly-owned African American networks. Matt Bond, Comcast Executive Vice President, Programming Content Acquisitions, should be subpoenaed to testify under oath as to how many African American owned media companies have been allowed to pitch him (or not pitch him) for Carriage Distribution Agreements. How many African American owned media companies have been consistently denied such opportunities? Clearly the answer is disturbing given the lack of 100% African American owned cable networks widely distributed on the Comcast platform. And it's not for the lack of trying. Businessman Alvin James, along with Marlon Jackson of the Jackson Five, Attorney Willie E. Gary, Heavyweight Champion, Evander Holyfield and Baseball Icon Cecil Fielder, raised in excess of $60 million to fund a 100% African American owned network called The Black Family Channel. Instead of Comcast ensuring that The Black Family Channel succeeded, they exploited these African American entrepreneurs by charging them millions of dollars in unnecessary launch fees. If Comcast did not support a network called The Black Family Channel, why should Black families support Comcast?
The National Coalition of African American Owned Media (NCAAOM) is working to ensure that African American Owned media companies are given the same opportunities as their non-African American counterparts to own, produce compelling content, access distribution, and flourish in today's integrated media landscape. The organization is focused on creating sustained equality through ownership as a means of rectifying the continued racial imbalance within the competitive media industry. NCAAOM's partners include The Black Business Association (LA), The Black Economic Council (OAK), The Greenlining Institute, 100 Black Men (ATL) and The Rosa Parks Foundation.
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