SOURCE: National Association of Hispanic Journalists

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April 16, 2010 18:51 ET

Hispanic Journalists Oppose Comcast/NBC Universal Merger

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - April 16, 2010) -  The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) opposes the proposed merger between cable giant Comcast and NBC Universal on the grounds 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. "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."

NAHJ believes the merging of the nation's largest broadband and cable provider with NBC Universal will lead to less diversity of voices and continued job losses for journalists, a pattern seen in virtually every instance of media consolidation in the past.

"We have seen the devastating impact media consolidation has had on newsrooms and our members," said Iván Román, NAHJ's executive director. "Companies like Comcast and NBC may try to sell us on why consolidation will benefit our community. But we know better. It never happens once the deal is done. Instead, Latino journalists are laid off and our community continues to be marginalized in news coverage."

Comcast, the nation's largest broadband provider and the largest cable company with one out of every four householders as subscribers, announced last December that it planned to acquire a majority share in NBC Universal from General Electric. 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.

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.

The "public interest commitments" Comcast made when announcing the deal last December -- launching a new over-the-air multicast channel using Telemundo's programming library and an unspecific pledge to increase Telemundo programming -- are troublingly unclear.

NAHJ has questioned NBC's commitment to the Spanish-language audience in the past. The organization criticized the network after closing down Telemundo's local newscasts in five of the top 10 Hispanic markets -- Houston, Dallas, Denver, San Jose and Phoenix -- in 2006, and replacing them with a regionally-produced newscast done in Fort Worth. The network reversed that decision last year and began to dismantle the Telemundo Content Center in Fort Worth.

"We remember the promises made by NBC in 2001 to invest in local Telemundo stations when it bought the network," Román said. "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."

Some Latino leaders have been meeting with Comcast officials to negotiate particular terms and benefits for the Latino community. In case the merger is approved, NAHJ believes that these leaders should, among other things, secure more firm commitments from Comcast about the resources to be invested in Telemundo and in NBC to expand and improve its coverage of the Latino community, truly serve the needs of its Spanish-language audience, and increase localism.

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