December 5, 2016
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Congresswoman Waters Raises Questions About Impact Of Comcast-NBC Merger


Los Angeles – Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-35) participated in a House Judiciary Committee field hearing yesterday on the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal. The hearing, entitled ‘The Proposed Combination of Comcast and NBC Universal’, was held at the California Science Center in Los Angeles and included testimony from witnesses representing the entertainment industry, civil rights organizations, and consumer advocates. Congresswoman Waters, a member of the Judiciary Committee, raised concerns about the merger’s potential impact on women, minorities and consumers, asked several questions of the witnesses and lamented the fact that certain key players in the deal were absent from the hearing.

 

Congresswoman Waters said, “The large turnout at the hearing revealed that many people have many questions about the scope of the merger and its impact on their wallet, their programming, and the representation of women and minorities in front of and behind the camera.”

 

“Assessing how committed Comcast and NBC are to diversity goes beyond examining their contributions, donations or community service projects to aid nonprofit, community and church groups,” the Congresswoman continued. “While those initiatives are important, today’s hearing was about understanding how diversity, programming, management, ownership and consumer prices could be impacted by a merger of this size.  In addition, we must evaluate whether the merger of the nation’s largest cable and internet company with one of the nation’s major network news and content providers is anticompetitive, unfairly dominating the market and thereby squeezing out alternative outlets for diverse voices and cultures.”

 

“At the time of the hearing, NBC Universal did not have a single primetime show with a minority show-runner, and that is problematic.  When we judge the sincerity of these corporations’ commitment to diversity, we look at their leadership and their work product.”  Congresswoman Waters added, “Comcast and NBC must be prepared to detail whether and how they meaningfully involve women and minorities in all aspects of media programming, production and distribution.”

After delivering their opening statements, Members of the Judiciary Committee heard testimony from a panel made up of writers, producers, industry executives, lawyers, activists and professors. The Committee entertained dialogue between panelists, among Members and even with the audience as the Members shared their thoughts and concerns and asked questions about the merger.

Congresswoman Waters has long been concerned about gender and racial diversity in media programming, management and ownership and the impact that media consolidation has on American consumers. Earlier this year, the Congresswoman urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to extend by 45 days the time period in which the public could comment on the Comcast-NBC merger. After she also introduced legislation that would have required it, the FCC granted the extension.

Additionally, Congresswoman Waters and 68 of her colleagues asked the FCC to conduct public hearings around the country on the merger. The FCC recently announced that it will conduct a public meeting in Chicago in July.  Congresswoman Waters considers this a promising start to what she hopes will become a series of public hearings, for which FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael Copps have expressed support.

 

“The field hearing was important, and the testimony was informative, but many questions still must be answered, especially by Comcast, which chose not to testify,” said Congresswoman Waters. “That is why additional Congressional and formal FCC public hearings in D.C. and around the country are imperative: American consumers need to have all their questions answered as we prepare for one of the largest media mergers in this country’s history. I want to thank Chairman Conyers for holding this hearing in Los Angeles, and also to thank my colleagues and the panelists for their participation as well. More events like this are necessary so that we all understand the merger’s impact on diversity and consumer costs.”

Members of the Judiciary Committee who took part in today’s hearing included Chairman John Conyers (D-MI), Congresswoman Waters, Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN), Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA) and Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX). 

Witnesses testifying before the committee included Will Griffin, Hip Hop on Demand; Alex Nogales, National Hispanic Media Coalition; Samuel Kang, The Greenlining Institute; Allen Hammond, Santa Clara University School of Law; Alfred Liggins, Radio One; Stanley Washington, National Coalition of African American Owned Media; Jim Weitkamp, Communications Workers of America; Suzanne de Passe, de Passe Jones Entertainment; Dr. Darnell Hunt, University of California, Los Angeles; Kathryn Galan, National Association of Latino Independent Producers; Frank Washington, Tower of Babel LLC; and Paula Madison, NBC Universal.

 

 

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House of Rep: Office of Maxine Waters, 2344 Rayburn Building, Washington, DC 20515 United States

 



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