Tomorrow the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and The Internet of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a field hearing in Chicago on the topic “Comcast and NBC Universal: Who Benefits?” I’ll be testifying at the hearing and look forward to further detailing the benefits of this transaction. As we’ve detailed in prior hearings, in our FCC filings, and here on the blog, the beneficiaries include the nation’s economy, everyone who subscribes to multichannel video services (whether from Comcast or our competitors), over-the-air viewers, the independent programming and production community, communities of color, and many others.
We’re proud to serve communities in our Greater Chicago Region in Illinois, northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan. Comcast employs 7500 people in the Region. In 2009, we were named Best Place to Work in Illinois by the Business Ledger and just two weeks ago we earned a spot on the list of “Chicago’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For” by the National Association of Business Resources. Comcast is active in the community, and we’re grateful that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and many of our community partners including the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago, Southwest Conference of Mayors, Springfield Urban League, Tri-County Urban League, United Way of Central Illinois and United Way of Will County, Illinois and many others have filed supportive comments about the Comcast – NBCU joint venture at the FCC.
Today, competition is fierce in all the markets in which Comcast and NBCU operate. For example in the state of Illinois, there are numerous other video providers from which consumers can choose, including AT&T, DirecTV, Dish Network, WOW, and RCN. Content competition is fierce as well – even after the joint venture is completed, about six out of every seven channels on Comcast cable systems will still not be affiliated with Comcast. In Chicago, that means that out of about 190 channels in our most popular cable package, only about 30 will be affiliated with the new company. The vast majority of content we carry on our video platform will continue to be content we don’t have an ownership interest in.
As part of our genuine commitment to the health of local broadcasting, we have worked closely with local broadcasters. We reached out to NBC local station affiliates and agreed to maintain the NBC Network by devoting sufficient resources to program development to ensure that the NBC Network’s program schedule remains competitive. We have also agreed, with limited qualifications, not to migrate major sporting events to any linear programming channel in which Comcast has an ownership interest, and to keep Comcast’s retransmission consent negotiations separate from the NBC Network’s negotiations with NBC local affiliates. We have also reached an agreement with ABC, CBS and FOX affiliates to, among other things, engage in arms-length, good faith negotiations of retransmission consent agreements.
Since the earlier Congressional hearings and our Public Interest filing at the FCC, we have clarified, enhanced, and supplemented our commitments with respect to diversity of programming, ownership, supplier, and workplace opportunities. Last week, we detailed the results of our productive discussions with organizations representing millions of Latinos. At the hearing, we’ll discuss new additional commitments to benefit diverse communities.
With respect to programming, Comcast is keenly aware of the importance of providing programming that appeals to diverse audiences, and we have worked hard to increase the programming options to meet the diverse needs of our subscribers. In the past eight years, Comcast has licensed a significant amount of content for diverse audiences, expanding from carriage agreements with 20 broadcast and cable networks to over 130 such networks that serve minority communities. And we feature hundreds of hours of On Demand programming that deliver a variety of TV entertainment and music choices from various networks geared toward diverse and ethnic audiences. While Comcast has one of the most diverse programming channel line-ups in the industry, we recognize that there is still room for improvement. We remain committed to expanding the amount, quality, and diversity of national and local programming for customers across all platforms.
In the areas of community investment, employment diversity, and supplier diversity, Comcast has a taken a deliberate and conscientious approach, similar to our approach in programming. We recognize that diversity is not a designation, it is a value and principle, which is central to the way Comcast does business.
In Chicago, our involvement goes well beyond providing financial support to local community organizations. Comcast employees are part of the community fabric. More than 4,900 Comcast employees, families and friends volunteered for over 60 community projects in Comcast Cares Day this year. Comcast recently awarded 235 scholarships to high-school students throughout the Greater Chicago Region as part of our Leaders & Achievers program. And all K-12 schools in our service areas receive complimentary basic cable and a Comcast High-Speed Internet Connection at no cost. We have approximately 8,000 complimentary school and government accounts in the region.
Nationally, Comcast has partnered with the One Economy Corporation to create the Comcast Digital Connectors program. This program identifies talented young people in underserved communities, provides immersive technology training, and helps them build skills to enter the 21st century economy. We’ve already launched 14 sites, and this fall, in partnership with Pastor Reverend Stephen J. Thurston and New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church, Comcast will bring Digital Connectors to Chicago. The first class of Digital Connectors participants will graduate in June 2011.
These are just some of the benefits the joint venture between Comcast and NBCU holds for a wide range of stakeholders and, most importantly, consumers. Through this transaction we have been exploring new opportunities to utilize our resources so that no one is left behind. This transaction is about giving more to our diverse consumers and to the communities we serve – more programming, more career opportunities, more procurement opportunities, and more community outreach. Based on our solid record and the voluntary commitments we have offered in connection with the NBCU transaction, we strongly believe the benefits of this transaction are in the public interest.