The National Association of Hispanic Journalists has become the first journalist-of-color organization to oppose the proposed merger between NBC Universal and Comcast, saying that "this massive media consolidation will lead to fewer journalism jobs, less coverage of the Latino community, less diversity of voices, and excessive control for one company over the country's media."
"A merger of Comcast and NBC should cause real fear," said O. Ricardo Pimentel, NAHJ president, in a news release. "When an entity that provides major programming joins with the folks who control the pipes through which this content flows, this concentrates too much control in too few hands. Media consolidation has already resulted in too much of this. Let's not allow more of the same."
NBC and Comcast have both supported NAHJ financially, executive director Ivan Román told Journal-isms, but he said, "We know of sponsors who continue to support us" despite the association's stance on particular issues. He said NAHJ's position is consistent with its previous opposition to media consolidation. The motion passed at a March 26 board meeting in Los Angeles with all in favor save one member who abstained, Román said.
With NBC Universal valued at $30 billion, the two media companies have a lot riding on the proposal. But groups opposed to further media consolidation, as well as groups representing people of color, have been skeptical if not outright opposed to it.The Latino Business Chamber of Greater L.A., for example, told the Federal Communications Commission that Latinos are unlikely to benefit.
"The group cited a lack of Latinos in key exec positions at both firms, a failure of 'sufficient positive' Latino content and 'more than occasional' negative Latino stereotyping," the trade publication CableFax reported two weeks ago. "Among recommendations: Public hearings in at least 5 major markets with large Latino populations and an FCC-appointed bilingual Special Master to analyze characters and content for a typical week of programming for NBC and Comcast, and to suggest changes."
At a February hearing on Capitol Hill, African American and Hispanic members of Congress grilled NBC and Comcast on their diversity records, and the next day NBC announced that"Meet the Press" was "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."
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., announced on Friday that she had forced the FCC to extend the comment period on the merger after introducing legislation, with 56 co-sponsors, calling for such an extension.
"If the deal is approved, it would give Comcast control over the NBC and Telemundo networks, 11 cable channels, 26 local television stations, and a movie studio," NAHJ said.
"The resulting 'vertical integration' would allow a company that is a major distributor of news, information and entertainment to also control the production of a vast amount of the content the American public receives. Several legislators on Capitol Hill have said there is potential for Comcast to treat its own content preferentially on cable and on the internet, throwing up roadblocks for its competitors and smaller, independent producers who are even more likely to be left out of the cable lineup."
Román said in the release, "We remember the promises made by NBC in 2001 to invest in local Telemundo stations when it bought the network. But following the merger, NBC gutted the local news operations of Telemundo stations in major cities throughout the country. We urge our fellow journalism organizations and Latino leaders to join us in opposing this merger."