Yesterday, Brian Roberts and Jeff Zucker returned to Capitol Hill, this time to testify before the House Judiciary Committee regarding Comcast and GE’s proposed joint venture for NBC Universal. We listened to a number of diverse viewpoints from the Members and witnesses and some important themes that emerged – jobs, independent programming, and diversity. While the dialogue was spirited and productive, as more than one Member recognized, most of the issues raised in the hearing were not “transaction specific” – while important, they will not be affected one way or the other by the creation of the Comcast/GE joint venture.
Working at Comcast: We heard questions and testimony related to Comcast and NBCU as employers, and clearly in this economy jobs are on all of our minds. As a company, Comcast has a track record of creating thousands of American jobs. We have grown from 68,000 employees in 2003 to over 100,000 today. As I said in my earlier post, we offer all full-time employees health care benefits and company-matched 401k accounts. We regularly ask third parties to conduct anonymous employee satisfaction surveys, and are proud to say we have received consistently high marks. In short, Comcast is an employer of choice all around the country and a great place to work. This has led to many third party recognitions of Comcast as a high quality employer, including the recent ranking of Comcast by the Boston Globe as the #1 large employer in the region.
There were a number of questions from some members about Comcast’s relationship to our employees and unions, partially stimulated by testimony from the Communications Workers of America, a single union. We believe we were able to put those concerns to rest, noting that: (1) Comcast is a pro-employee company. (2) the CWA’s greatest objection to Comcast is that thousands of our employees voted to decertify the union after we acquired AT&T’s cable properties in 2002. But it’s a historical fact that the cable industry has not seen high levels of labor organization, and there’s no evidence that these decertification elections were anything other than our employees voluntarily deciding that the union they might have wanted to represent them at AT&T was not necessary with Comcast as an employer. (3) Comcast is not anti-union. In fact, in our content properties, we are actually above-average when it comes to unionization: over 13% of our cable programming employees are organized, compared to the 7.1% national average. (4) Together with Liberty Property Trust, we just built an $850 million new headquarters office building in downtown Philadelphia – and we did that with a 100% union workforce. (5) Finally, we see our joint venture with NBCU as an investment in the creative talent of our content employees represented by the various guilds and unions representing directors, actors, technical professionals, and others. We have committed to recognizing the existing collective bargaining agreements between these entertainment unions and NBCU – and to continuing the strong labor-management relations that exist today between NBCU and its unions.
Independent Programming: While the Independent Film and Television Association (the “IFTA”) suggested that our joint venture would reduce opportunities for independent programmers, we explained that this is incorrect. In fact, independent programming – and programming from a wide diversity of sources — will be an important element of our continued growth in both content and distribution. Among the numerous independent programming networks (and outlets for independent programming) with whom we currently work are HDNet, Gospel Music Channel, IFC, Sundance, Magnolia, Ovation TV, Hallmark Movie Channel, Havoc, Here Networks, Shalom TV, RHI, and Concert TV. We currently distribute their movies, documentaries, music videos, and shows on TV, OnDemand, and/or online. Even the IFTA witness acknowledged that (due to reduced opportunities at the broadcast networks) independent programmers have pursued their opportunities with cable companies, including Comcast. We showed our desire to help create new opportunities for independently owned and operated programming networks when we committed to add two new independent programming channels per year beginning in 2011. We are also helping to create new opportunities for distributing content online through Fancast Xfinity TV. The joint venture gives us greater freedom to innovate and create new and exciting platforms and opportunities. Independent programmers will benefit from this innovation.
Diversity: A few members of the Committee raised questions about diversity at Comcast (and NBCU). Brian reiterated the company’s commitment to promoting diversity in everything the company does. To me, as Comcast’s Chief Diversity Officer, this means, among other things, diversity in our workforce, in our programming lineup, in our supplier base, and in our community investments (philanthropy) – and having results we can be proud of. Here are just a few examples of those results:
- Almost 60 percent of Comcast’s employees are women or people of color.
- Many of our cable service regions are led by women or people of color, including our West Division and our Philadelphia, Miami, Houston, Chicago, Portland, and Salt Lake City Regions.
- Women head up three of Comcast’s seven business lines—Comcast Interactive Media, Comcast Digital Voice, and Comcast High Speed Internet.
- We have senior women leading Investor Relations, Corporate Communications, Comcast University, Corporate Administration, Community Investment, and our programming networks.
- We continue to seek out ways to proactively identify minority candidates for employment at Comcast. We partner nationally with the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC), the National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA), the National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA) and Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT) on our recruiting efforts.
- Our diversity efforts have received numerous recognitions and awards. A recent sampling: Latina Style magazine named us one of the “50 Best Companies for Latinas,” Hispanic Business included us among its “Diversity Elite 60: Top Companies for Hispanics,” and the readers of US Black Engineer, Hispanic Engineer and Women of Color magazines ranked us among their “Most Admired Employers for Minority Professionals.”
- Our work on supplier diversity has earned the attention of Diversitybusiness.com, which ranked us among its “Top 50 Organizations for Multicultural Business Opportunities.”
- Minority/women/disabled-owned businesses (MWDB) were key to the construction of the Comcast Center, our new corporate headquarters in Philadelphia. Nearly $100 million in contracts were awarded to 73 MWDBs, comprising 45% of the vendors Minority/women/disabled-owned businesses (MWDB) were key to the construction of the Comcast Center, our new corporate headquarters in Philadelphia. Nearly $100 million in construction related contracts were awarded to 73 MWDBs, comprising 45% of the vendors on the project. On a combined basis, more than 30 percent of the qualified construction contracts went to MWDBS, and on the employment side 21 percent of all hours worked on the project were performed by women and minorities.
- We distribute more than 140 multicultural networks in a variety of formats, featuring programming from around the world, including over 70 Hispanic networks.
Notwithstanding all these successes, of which we are justifiably proud, Brian underscored our commitment to do even better.
We also welcomed the chance to explain again our exciting vision of the future of video service. We are glad to continue providing Members of Congress, other public officials, and the readers of Comcast Voices more details about the public interest benefits of this joint venture.