Waters Says Don't Trust Comcast on Diversity
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Reps. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. and Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., in June at a four-hour field hearing in Los Angeles on the proposed Comcast-NBC merger. (Credit: Office of Rep. Maxine Waters.)
"Seeking to neutralize political opposition to its proposed merger with NBC Universal Inc., Comcast Corp. says it will add four cable networks owned, or partly owned, by African Americans over the next eight years, as well as a new English-language channel aimed at Asian Americans," Bob Fernandez reported Friday for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
"Those provisions are part of separate agreements Comcast executives signed with civil rights groups."
But Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who has raised diversity issues in connection with the proposed merger, wrote the FCC Monday saying that "many of the proposed conditions appear to be a series of vague goals and nominal gestures . . . there is no real assurance that the merged entity will honor them."
She said that "if the Commission ultimately approves the Comcast-NBCU merger, it must be conditioned upon substantive and enforceable commitments that are in conformity with the agency’s statutory standards and goals."
Waters said in her letter:
"Although the civic organizations and community leaders who helped forge these agreements likely negotiated in good faith, absent further action by the Commission, I am afraid that these commitments will result in yet another set of broken promises between communities of color and large corporations.
"Even as these groups enter into new MOUs [memorandums of understanding] with Comcast-NBCU, earlier this month, the National Latino Media Council proclaimed that all of the networks (including NBC) 'pretty well failed Latinos in their progress on diversity practices.' It appears that NBC Universal has not made much progress since signing an earlier MOU with the civil rights community in 2000, and we have nothing to indicate that these new MOUs will change what has been a steady decline in diversity among all the major broadcast networks. To that end, I remain very concerned about how the Comcast-NBCU merger will further erode the Commission’s capacity to promote diverse, independent, and competing sources of information."
Fernandez reported, "African American groups that signed the agreement to be filed with the FCC were the NAACP, the National Urban League, and the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, according to a memorandum of understanding between the groups and Comcast.
"According to that agreement, the four channels added to the Comcast lineup will be majority-owned or substantially owned by African Americans. The channels will be added to Comcast over eight years."
". . . Comcast has said it would like to conclude its merger with NBC Universal by the end of the year, but time seems to be running short, with the holidays and the net-neutrality issue before the FCC.
"The Justice Department also has to give its consent to the merger."
As reported last week, five Asian American organizations — the Asian American Justice Center, Organization of Chinese Americans, Japanese American Citizens League, East West Players and Media Action Network for Asian Americans — came out in support of the merger after Comcast agreed to expand Asian American programming.
In June, Comcast promised to add at least three independent cable networks with 'substantial [minority] ownership interest' over the next three years; to establish four external advisory councils, one each for representatives of the African American, Latino, Asian Pacific Islander communities, and another for 'other diverse communities,' and to spend at least $7 million more on advertising in minority-owned media next year.
Before that, NBC promised in February that " 'Meet the Press' is committed to having a more diverse group of voices on the show whose opinions and expertise reflect, not just the news of the day, but the cultural, economical and political landscape of our country."
"Do not adjust your television sets: The BET special celebrating the network's 30th anniversary scheduled for Sunday evening was nowhere to be found. The show, 'BET 30: Moments and Movements,' was supposed to air from 8 to 10 p.m.," Nancy McKeon reported Monday for the Washington Post.
"An e-mail from a BET press representative sent to The Post at 7:30 p.m., half an hour before the show was to air, said, 'It appears that we will not be airing the BET special this evening.' No explanation was given."
BET spokeswoman Jeanine Liburd told Journal-isms by e-mail Monday night, "Unfortunately, BET 30: Moments and Movements experienced some unforeseen technical difficulties and a solution could not be reached before air time. We sincerely apologize to our viewers and will announce the new air date shortly."
A note on the BET website Monday night listed a new airtime of Wednesday at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific time, 7 p.m. Central.
"The show postponement attracted comments to the BET Web site from upset viewers from around the country," the Post story continued. "A viewer from Philadelphia wrote, 'I'm very disappointed. BET should at least place a notation at the bottom of the [TV] screen with details of when' the show will air."
While not produced by the News division, "BET 30: Moments and Movements," was to include "a look at 'police brutality' through the eyes of Rodney King; 'the September 11 attacks' from the personal insight of Melodie Homer, widow of one of the pilots of Flight 93;" and explore "hip-hop’s commercial rise from the perspective of rap icon Jay-Z. From the effect the Cosby family had in American households to Obama’s meteoric rise to Spike Lee and the emergence of black filmmakers to the crack and HIV/AIDS epidemics devastating urban communities."
Isaac Lee, president of news for Univision, "who's been on the job barely a week, told a Produ.com reporter the Spanish-language network will start a 24-hr news channel," Veronica Villafañe reported Friday for her Media Moves site.
" 'I don't know how quickly we'll do it or when it will launch, but it is one of our most important projects. I think it will be very successful because the platform we have at Univision to pull it off is spectacular,' he said during the interview.
"He said he plans to bring about a 'revolution' to Univision, focusing on the expansion of new media and social networks, with the intention of furthering the network's growth."
Univision spokeswoman Monica Talan confirmed Monday that "the company is evaluating many projects and opportunities."
- Update: FCC Passes Net Neutrality Rules
"The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission appears to have the votes he needs to pass new rules for net neutrality," Brian Stelter reported for the New York Times.
"Net neutrality — which broadly speaking is an effort to ensure open access to Web sites and online services — is on the agenda of an F.C.C. meeting Tuesday in Washington."
In a commentary on the Huffington Post, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said, "The good news is that the Federal Communications Commission has the power to issue regulations that protect net neutrality. The bad news is that draft regulations written by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski don't do that at all. They're worse than nothing."
Ivan Roman, executive director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, said on his Facebook page on Monday, "Agree 100 percent with Franken on this and so [do] NAHJ and UNITY Journalists of Color. The FCC could on Tuesday change the rules of the game on the Internet, allow discrimination against competitors and smaller entrepreneurs with less money than large corporations, and gut the openness and freedom of the internet so companies can make even more profit. Allowing this would repeat the mistakes of the past [when media, regardless of the new platform or technology that came along, shut out, ignored and discriminated against the poor and communities of color.]
". . . It looks like the FCC will betray those of us who want and need a truly free and open internet, and will approve fake net neutrality rules tomorrow. President Obama's pledge for net neutrality wasn't enough to counter lobbyists flooding the FCC, which seemed more bent on negotiating rather than regulating. The fight goes on!"
Stelter wrote that Genachowski "outlined a framework for net neutrality earlier this month, touching off a debate about the role of the government in regulating Internet access.
"As it stands now, the order would prohibit the blocking of any Web sites, applications or devices by fixed-line broadband Internet providers like Comcast and EarthLink, essentially forbidding the providers from picking winners and losers on behalf of consumers, F.C.C. officials said Monday.
"The F.C.C. officials also said that the order would broaden the government’s enforcement powers over broadband."
- John Eggerton, Broadcasting & Cable: Clyburn Supports Network Neutrality Vote
"The Senate on Saturday passed the Local Community Radio Act. That followed the passage of the bill in the House on Friday, and the bill will now go to President Obama for his signature, opening the way for potentially thousands more low-power FM stations," RadioInk reported on Saturday.
". . . The Prometheus Radio Project, which held a protest earlier this week outside NAB headquarters urging the organization to drop its opposition, was delighted by the bill's passage, though it said the amendments 'will require some further work at the FCC,' the story continued, referring to the National Association of Broadcasters.
"The group's Pete Tridish said, 'A town without a community radio station is like a town without a library. Many a small town dreamer — starting with a few friends and bake sale cash — has successfully launched a low-power station, and built these tiny channels into vibrant town institutions that spotlight school board elections, breathe life into the local music scene, allow people to communicate in their native languages, and give youth an outlet to speak.' "
President Obama signs the fruits of his tax-cut compromise with congressional Republicans on Friday, saying it would prevent tax increases on the middle class, grow the economy and maintain lifelines for millions of the unemployed. It also maintains tax cuts for the wealthy. (Credit: Chuck Kennedy/White House)
"Liberal Democrats remain strong supporters of President Obama, but their approval of the job he is doing has fallen noticeably since the midterm elections," Jeffrey M. Jones reported for the Gallup Organization on Thursday. "For the first time, it dropped below 80% in the week after the announcement of the tax deal he brokered with congressional Republicans."
The poll was taken before the weekend's developments in which the Senate voted with the president to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," but Senate Republicans and a handful of Democrats voted in the lame-duck session to block legislation that would grant legal residency to illegal immigrants who came to the United States before age 16.
". . . The Gallup data indicate that Obama's support among liberal Democrats was starting to decline even before he reached the tax deal," Gallup reported. "He averaged 88% approval among this group the last full week before the midterm elections (Oct. 25-31) and 83% the first three full weeks (Nov. 8-28) after his party suffered major losses in those elections, and then dipped below 80% the week after the announcement of the tax deal on Monday, Dec. 6."
- Betty Winston Bayé, Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal: Lessons learned by Obama and Steele
- Playthell Benjamin blog: Tom Buffenbarger Is Talking Like A Fool!
- Charles M. Blow, New York Times: Whose Party Is It?
- Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: McCain Hits Bottom, Digs
- Julianne Malveaux, Washington Informer: Some Want Jobs for Christmas
- Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: The Audacity of Audacity
- Ruben Navarrette, Washington Post Writers Group: For Obama's Critics, Grow Up
- Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: The weeper of the House
- Julia Preston, New York Times: Immigration Vote Leaves Obama’s Policy in Disarray
- "Rikyrah," Jack & Jill Politics: U.S. Senate Rejects the DREAM Act
- Elmer Smith, Philadelphia Daily News: For Prez & tax bill, a different week
- Cynthia Tucker blog, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 'Don’t ask' consigned to history’s dust bin
"Love it or hate it, Fox News has shaken up the media establishment and achieved financial success by airing the views of strident conservative pundits. Yet while the network has never made any bones about the political slant of opinion shows hosted by the likes of Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly, executives often claim that its news coverage is 'fair and balanced.' A memo revealed this week by the liberal watchdog group Media Matters calls that into question," the Los Angeles Times editorialized over the weekend.
"The first time Media Matters unveiled a leaked e-mail from Bill Sammon, Fox News' Washington managing editor, it was hardly worthy of mention. On Dec. 9 the group's website revealed that Sammon had instructed reporters to avoid the phrase 'public option' when referring to a proposed government-sponsored healthcare plan. . . .
"But a second intercepted missive from Sammon is quite a bit more troubling.
" 'We should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question,' read an e-mail sent by Sammon to news reporters on Dec. 8, 2009, and revealed this week by Media Matters. The memo went out 15 minutes after a Fox News reporter accurately explained to viewers that United Nations scientists had issued a report saying 2000 to 2009 was shaping up to be the warmest decade on record — even warmer than the 1990s, which were warmer than the 1980s.
"Such data aren't in serious dispute among climate scientists. . . . Fox should either come clean about this and crack down on such partisanship in its news ranks, or it should stop pretending to be an objective news source."
- Barry Sussman, Nieman Watchdog: Ridiculing Fox News
Louis M. "Skip" Perez told his staff, "I found my passion at a young age and had the good fortune to work for a company that represents the best in journalism," referring to the New York Times Co. (Credit: Lakeland Ledger)
Louis M. "Skip" Perez, executive editor of the Ledger in Lakeland, Fla., announced Thursday that he plans to retire from the newspaper Jan. 14, concluding a journalism career that lasted more than 40 years, Kyle Kennedy wrote Thursday for the Ledger.
Perez's paternal grandparents are from the Asturias region of Spain and those on his mother's side are from Cuba, Perez told Journal-isms.
". . . In 1970, Perez joined the staff of the Gainesville Sun as a reporter and later served as assistant city editor and editorial writer for the paper. He moved on to The Ledger in 1976 as editorial page editor and became executive editor in 1981, serving in that role for the past three decades," Kennedy reported.
". . . In addition to his duties at The Ledger, Perez represents The New York Times Co. on the board of directors of the Inter-American Press Association, a group dedicated to press freedom in Latin America. He is United States vice-chairman of IAPA's Freedom of Press Committee.
"Perez is a past president of the Florida Society of News Editors and served two terms on its board, as well as on the boards of the National Conference of Editorial Writers and the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was active for many years with the American Society of News Editors in a variety of committee roles, and was twice a juror for the Pulitzer Prizes."
Isabel Wilkerson, former New York Times correspondent, Pulitzer Prize winner and Boston University professor, discusses her critically acclaimed "The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration" on Saturday at the first holiday party of the Journalists' Roundtable, an informal dinner group of Washington journalists that began in 1998 and has been mentioned from time to time in this column. Behind Wilkerson are, from left, Jason Miccolo Johnson, Linda Shockley, Richard Prince, Jeannine Hunter, Latoya Peterson and Kevin Blackistone. More photos here. About 60 others attended the event at the D.C. home of Paul Delaney, retired New York Times senior editor, and his wife, Anita Delaney. (Photo credit: Craig Herndon.)
- "The broadcaster Tavis Smiley is changing the co-producer of his weeknight PBS talk show to WNET.org, from the Los Angeles station KCET-TV," Elizabeth Jensen wrote Monday for the New York Times. "The half-hour interview program, which is called 'Tavis Smiley' and begins its eighth season in January, will continue to be taped largely at its rented studios at KCET-TV, which had been Mr. Smiley’s production partner. But with KCET’s decision to end its affiliation with PBS effective Jan. 1, the show needed to find a new partner within the PBS family."
- "After the Philadelphia Eagles pulled off a miracle to beat the New York Giants on Sunday, the New York Post ran a headline 'Giants Dog It' on its cover and replaced two Giants players' heads with dogs," as the players chased Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who sparked his team's 28-point rally in the fourth quarter. Vick, as the Huffington Post noted, spent 19 months in prison and two months of home confinement after pleading guilty to running a dogfighting operation.
- Rehema Ellis, Emmy Award-winning correspondent for NBC News, is one of four graduates of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism who will receive its 2011 Alumni Award, the school announced on Monday. The others are HRH Rym Ali of Jordan, ’94, Bruce Brugmann ’58 and Robert Shaw ’66. Ellis was in the class of '77.
- "Beyond writing, reporting and editing chops, thriving financially outside of a traditional newsroom requires one major skill that most journalists lack: salesmanship, according to Maya Payne Smart, a Society of American Business Editors and Writers board member and freelance journalist. Commercial considerations "make many journalists squeamish because they are taught that their job is to inform the citizenry, tell compelling stories and bring truth to light. News flash: all of these goals require money," Smart wrote for Talking Biz News. She was responding to the results of a SABEW
freelance business journalism survey.
- Public radio station WAMU-FM at American University in Washington introduced listeners Friday to "Lynn C. French, whose African-American family has deep roots in the D.C. area... and a rich history/legacy of education. Her forebears include Emma Brown, who founded one of the first schools for African-Americans in D.C., and several of the early trustees of Howard University." Others in the family include journalists Howard W. French and Mary Ann French.
- Jarvis DeBerry, editorial writer and columnist at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, criticized his former colleague, photographer Alex Brandon, in his Sunday column. In court testimony in the trial of former New Orleans police officers charged in connection with the post-Katrina death of Henry Glover and a subsequent cover-up, Brandon said he saw three men lying handcuffed on the ground and Glover's body in the car. An officer told Brandon not to take photos, so he didn't. "Three police officers are headed to prison. Perhaps they'd already have been there a while if my former colleague with a reputation for courage had taken a stand and told what he saw," DeBerry wrote. Brandon now works for the Associated Press in Washington.
- In reporting on the Ivory Coast, where two men both claim they were elected president, "Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that newspapers that support Alassane Ouattara, were again available on newsstands this morning in Abidjan after being banned during the weekend by the supporters of Laurent Gbagbo," the press freedom group said on Friday. The White House on Monday increased pressure on Gbagbo to step down as president or face targeted sanctions after the United Nations said he lost the Nov. 28 election, Reuters reported.
- "I wound up in Soledad O'Brien's new book 'The Next [Big] Story,' " Danielle Belton, who writes the blog "The Black Snob," told Journal-isms on Monday. "A post from a blog I wrote is in her book. But she has it labeled as being critical of her blackness when it was a post I wrote defending her right to define herself. Anyway, Sunday she and Howard Kurtz briefly brought up what I wrote" on Kurtz's CNN show "Reliable Sources." "I honestly got the impression no one has ever actually read the full post."
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