A little over a year ago the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the merger of Comcast Corporation and NBC Universal. As a part of the 4-to-1 decision the Commission set forth a series of conditions for the joint venture upon granting its approval:
As part of the merger, Comcast-NBCU will be required to take affirmative steps to foster competition in the video marketplace. In addition, Comcast-NBCU will increase local news coverage to viewers; expand children’s programming; enhance the diversity of programming available to Spanish-speaking viewers; offer broadband services to low-income Americans at reduced monthly prices; and provide high-speed broadband to schools, libraries and underserved communities, among other public benefits.
Comcast wasted no time in fulfilling the promises. Right out the gate they announced the creation of a $20 million venture capital fund dedicated expressly to the development and roll-out of new media content and technologies by minority entrepreneurs.
Since the merger approval Comcast has followed those initial efforts with the launch of Internet Essentials, increased carriage of independent networks, committed to launch 10 new independent channels by 2019 and increased children’s programming choices to name just a few of their endeavors.
Comcast Internet Essentials is a broadband deployment program designed to help provide affordable Internet access, computer equipment, and digital literacy training to eligible families. In a very short time it has become the largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program in America. As of December 21, 2011, the program had already connected more than 41,000 homes to the Internet (an estimated 80,000 children and 160,000 low-income Americans), most for the first time, and Comcast has announced significant enhancements to the program which will increase the number of eligible households, make it easier for them to sign up for the program, and enhance the attractiveness of the service.
Making good on its promise of more independent networks Comcast has increased carriage of diverse networks such as the Africa Channel by two million homes, Mnet by four million homes, and TVOne by 600,000 homes. Comcast also expanded distribution of seven Hispanic or Spanish-language independent networks by 14 million homes, surpassing the three network and 10 million homes target in its commitment.
For the critics of merger conditions it’s the company’s willingness to go beyond the required efforts that proves diversity is a company value, not a requirement.
In late February Comcast announced the first of its new minority-owned independent networks. Beginning this April the stations will be broadly distributed on Comcast cable systems.
In a release Comcast stated, “We’re thrilled to be working with talents like NBA Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson, superstar entrepreneur Sean “Diddy” Combs, legendary Hollywood director Robert Rodriguez, and Spanish language TV veteran Constantino “Said” Schwarz.”
These new independent networks were selected after a thorough review of more than 100 proposals. The networks bringing exciting and fresh content to Comcast’s consumers will be:
- Aspire: Launching this summer and led by Magic Johnson, this network will celebrate the successes, achievements and accomplishments of the African American Community with programming including movies, documentaries, short films, music and comedies.
- REVOLT: Proposed by Diddy Combs and MTV veteran Andy Schuon, REVOLT’s programming will be inspired by music and pop culture with social media interaction for music artists and fans. It will launch in 2013.
- El Rey: Proposed by Robert Rodriguez with John Fogelman and Cristina Patway from FactoryMade Ventures, El Rey will be an action-packed general entertainment network for Latino and general audiences.
- BabyFirst Americas: Launching this April after being proposed by Constantino Schwarz, this network is designed for infants and young children and their parents with a focus on early development.
The impact of the merger conditions on minorities has been positive. In addition to bringing the internet to underserved, low-income communities and providing platforms for minority participation in media, Comcast is also working to diversify its organization. They created an external Joint Diversity Advisory Council consisting of national diverse leaders in business, entertainment, and civil rights; appointed two new minority directors to the Comcast Board, and are focused on recruiting diverse talent.
For more on Comcast’s diversity efforts, click here.