Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Hispanic groups meet with Comcast, NBC

Comcast, NBCU meet with Hispanic advocacy groups
By Bob Fernandez, Philadelphia Inquirer

Hispanic civil rights and advocacy groups met in Philadelphia yesterday with top executives at Comcast Corp. and NBC Universal Inc. to discuss Hispanic media issues related to the proposed $30 billion merger of the cable company and the entertainment giant.

The meeting was part of the full-court press by Comcast and NBC to court favor with special-interest groups that might oppose the merger in Congress and at the Federal Communications Commission.

D'Arcy Rudnay, senior vice president of communications at Comcast, said the meeting was private and was one of many Comcast was holding. "The meetings have been constructive," she said, noting they began about two weeks ago and are being held in several cities.

Hispanic media issues typically involve complaints about a lack of Hispanic TV station owners, insufficient news and entertainment programming choices, and TV shows that reinforce negative Hispanic stereotypes, Hispanic officials said.

NBC Universal operates the NBC and Telemundo television networks.

Comcast declined to say which groups were represented at the meeting in the Comcast Center.

But sources in the Hispanic advocacy community said that among the groups represented were the National Council of La Raza, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility.

Corporate executives present were Comcast chief executive officer Brian Roberts, NBCU president Jeff Zucker, Comcast executive vice president David Cohen, Comcast vice president Susan Gonzales, and NBCU chief diversity officer Paula Madison.

Felix Sanchez, chairman and cofounder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts in Washington, a 14-year-old nonprofit group that was not invited to the Philadelphia session, said there were few Hispanic voices on highly rated news shows such as NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday mornings, and that Telemundo has cut costs in local TV news operations under NBC's ownership.

"I would be willing to see commitments made, but commitments have been made in the past, so one is skeptical of future promises," Sanchez said, referring to steps that might bring his support for the merger.

Joe Torres, government relations manager for Free Press, a nonprofit group fiercely opposed to the merger, said, "Historically, media consolidation has been terrible for the Latino community. . . . We don't control our image, and other people are telling our stories."

Contact Bob Fernandez at 215-854-5897 or

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