In an effort to sway FCC approval for a joint venture with NBC Universal, Comcast made a commitment on Friday to dedicate eight of 10 new proposed networks as majority ownership interest for minorities.
Don Jackson, founder and CEO of Central City Productions, a 40-year-old production company responsible for producing the Stellar Awards, says the merger could create an opportunity for his company on two fronts. First, Comcast’s promise to expand diversity in front of, and behind the camera, will assist CCP in getting more day time and prime time coverage on NBC stations for Our World with Black Enterprise and The Black Enterprise Business Report; two shows that Chicago-based CCP co-produces with Earl G. Graves Ltd.
Next, Jackson plans to leverage Comcast’s commitment to create four new African American-owned networks and propose his idea to start the Black Family Television Network, a family, news and entertainment-oriented network with faith-based programming.
“The black church spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year to get their ministry programs on television. They are buying time, but they have no equity whatsoever other than the return they get from donations,” says Jackson. “Many of the other white churches have already started their networks.”
He plans to finance the BFTN by providing equity ownership to mega-churches. He could also benefit from a $20 million venture capital fund Comcast pledges to establish in order to expand opportunities for minority entrepreneurs.
Comcast’s promise doesn’t appease everyone. The $20 million is only a drop in the bucket since Comcast spends $8 billion a year licensing content for their cable systems of which less than $2 million or .025% is spent on black-owned networks, says Stanley E. Washington, president & CEO of the National Coalition of African American Owned Media. Washington considers the pledge “extremely insulting” considering that $15 billion of the $36 billion Comcast generates in revenues comes from African American subscribers.
“NCAAOM will remain relentless until Comcast agrees to commit 10% ($800 million) of their annual programming budget to wholly-owned African American networks,” Washington said.
Comcast’s announcement came at the behest of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California), who has been critical of NBC Universal, which is owned by General Electric and Comcast’s track records on diversity within their programming, management, ownership, and advertising activities. Waters has requested several public hearing to discuss the matter and assure that the merger does not limit entrepreneurial competition.
African Americans make up to 40% of Comcast’s subscriber base, but none of the 250 plus channels that are offered on the Comcast platform are 100% African American owned and widely distributed, according to opposition to the Comcast NBCU merger, which the NCAAOM filed with the FCC. TV One, which is 37% owned by Radio One is the only U.S. cable network with significant black ownership.
For more information:
The Coalition for Competition in Media
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