As Comcast, the nation’s biggest cable and broadband Internet company, seeks to grow even larger by consuming NBC Universal – Black Americans need to get off the sidelines and demand to receive fair levels of participation and parity, economic inclusion, and workplace respect in this proposed $30-billion transaction. Why?
Comcast has a history of racial exclusion, and a tendency to want to remain “hands-off.” For example, during construction of the new Comcast Tower in Philadelphia, when Paul Solomon, an African American hoist operator, said that a white member of the glaziers’ union shook a noose at him as he stopped his hoist at the 45th floor; guess what the response was from the suits at Comcast? The company officials said “any public relations regarding the incident were being handled by Liberty Property Trust and L.F. Driscoll Company.”
Isn’t this a communications company? In the NAACP’s 2008 Consumer Choice Guide, the company received a grade of “D+” in the area of “Marketing/Communications”. But in terms of “Deploying Service” to the African-American community, in the same report, the company received a grade of “A”. Translation: they fail at marketing to us, but are excellent at installing cable service so we can send them a check.
This is the textbook definition of an exploitative relationship between a community and a vendor. The company won’t even disclose it’s spending in terms of “advertising dollars committed to Black-owned newspapers” according to Danny Bakewell, Chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) also known as the Black Press of America. It doesn’t even show up on the radar although the NNPA’s 200 Black-owned newspapers reach more than 19 million Black newspaper readers every week.
So now, Comcast wants to acquire NBC Universal, a company with its own set of problems with equity and the African-American community; particularly in the area of programming, the shows you watch on their network. In a hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee on the proposed $30-billion marriage NBC Universal, CEO, Jeff Zucker stated under questioning, “There’s not a program on NBC that has an African-American central theme to it.” Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) was visibly surprised at this revelation.
She later responded, “You’ve got a diversity problem; you’ve got a labor problem, and you’ve got an ownership problem..I just don’t know why I should be supportive of your merger”. Neither should anyone in the Black community. Until Comcast and NBC Universal are willing to have a substantive dialogue and demonstrate a commitment to meaningful inclusion, the Black community needs to oppose this proposed deal in full force. Now!
Imagine the positive impact of Black people finally being included, at the deal-making stage, in what has historically been a racially discriminatory industry. And with the projected growth by the African American community in usage of mobile phone services, Internet access, broadband, programming interests, and cable services, we can’t afford to be excluded and taken for granted by corporate behemoths once again. The stakes are too high.