Jul 13, 2010

What's Behind the Public Interest Agreements Announced by Comcast and NBCU?

When Comcast and GE announced on December 3 of last year that they would create a new joint venture in which Comcast would take operational and managerial responsibility for NBC Universal (“NBCU”), we immediately began reaching out to a wide range of stakeholders – in the diversity community, the broadcast community, the production community, the Washington advocacy community (groups across the political spectrum), the advertising, technology and not-for-profit communities, and political leaders at all levels of government – to explain the joint venture, our business goals, and the public interest benefits we believe would flow from the transaction. We also released an initial set of public interest commitments intended to ensure that the public would benefit in the ways we envisioned, as well as commitments intended to ensure our competitors that we will continue to compete effectively but fairly.

By announcing these public interest commitments, we were sending the message that we’re serious about delivering public benefits and about playing fairly. We also were sending the message that we were prepared to discuss legitimate concerns with responsible organizations who would be prepared to find common ground and discuss constructive solutions. We have engaged with a number of such organizations and have reached a series of agreements intended to reinforce what we believe is an already compelling case for the transaction. We believe our proactive efforts have yielded great results.

We intend for this transaction to create more opportunities for independent programmers, and in our original commitments we said we would add more independently-owned and –operated cable channels, and use advanced technologies like On Demand and online to promote distribution of independent content. To that end, on Monday, Comcast and NBCU joined with the Independent Film and Television Alliance (“IFTA”) to announce a series of commitments to create opportunities for independent producers on broadcast, cable and the newer platforms.

We intend for this transaction to promote opportunities for diverse communities. In the last few weeks, we announced agreements with the heads of Hispanic leadership organizations to expand and improve the diversity efforts of Comcast and NBCU in several key areas, including employment, supplier diversity, programming, community investment, and governance. And last week, we announced additional enhancements to these diversity commitments, including the formation of a new venture capital fund that will make at least $20 million available to expand opportunities for minority entrepreneurs to develop new media content and applications. We will also establish, for the first time in the company’s history, a model Diversity Advisory Council structure that will allow us to work closely with leaders of the African American, Hispanic, and Asian Pacific Islander communities, and with representatives of people with disabilities, veterans, the LGBT community, and others. A summary of Comcast and NBCU’s diversity commitments appears here.

We intend for this transaction to help preserve and promote local broadcasting, which has been a hallmark of NBC’s service for a half-century. We have worked with the owners of local TV stations affiliated with NBC to ensure that we will commit the resources needed to make NBC strong and competitive. We have also worked with the owners of local TV stations affiliated with networks that compete with NBC (including ABC, CBS and Fox) to reassure them that, even though we will be the owners of NBC, we will treat those stations fairly in negotiations to carry their local signals and other matters.

In addition to these and other agreements we’ve successfully concluded, we have continued to reach out to other stakeholders to see if there are legitimate areas of interest or concern that we can address. This is the way that Comcast has always pursued its business and public policy goals – by being willing to engage with reasonable people toward constructive ends that make sense for us and for them. We do not expect to resolve every concern this way, and there will always be certain stakeholders who would rather attack than discuss. But that will not stop us from reaching out.

We’ve had a number of public officials comment to us that there has not been much opposition to our proposed joint venture – which is somewhat surprising to them because, in Washington, merger reviews are often a time when interest groups come out of the woodwork looking for special concessions. These officials have concluded that this is largely the result of the companies’ successful and open outreach to stakeholder organizations.

We also enjoy the support of hundreds of organizations who know Comcast and NBCU and can attest to the fact that we are serious about our commitment to local communities. We’ve also enjoyed the support of many independent programmers, advertisers, technology companies, and other stakeholders. We think that all of this support, along with the agreements we’ve reached with stakeholders, makes a compelling case for timely completion of the federal approvals process this year.

Tags : Comcast, GE, NBCUniversal

 
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