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Nonprofits back Comcast-NBC merger — vaguely

Some 29 local nonprofits testified in favor of Comcast at the FCC’s hearing on the proposed $28 billion Comcast-NBC merger, held in Chicago in July – but few actually mentioned the merger, and none spoke directly to the issues involved in the controversial merger, according to an analysis (pdf) by Chicago Media Action.

Nonprofits backing Comcast included Association House, the League of United Latin American Citizens, Back of the Yards Neighborhood Club, Gad’s Hill Center, Chicago Boys and Girls Club, United Neighborhood Organization, Literacy Works, the Center on Halsted, and the YMCA of Metro Chicago.

Only eight nonprofit representatives actually mentioned the merger, and none provided any specific reason for backing it, according to CMA.  Typical is a statement from an UNO representative:  “It is UNO’s belief that the Comcast/Universal joint venture is in the public’s best interest.”

Most pro-Comcast speakers merely praised the corporation for providing financial assistance to their organizations, according to CMA.

“What’s particularly stunning about the comments in support of the proposed merger is how fundamentally monolithic they are,” said Mitchell Szczepanczyk of CMA. “No reason aside from ‘Comcast is great’ was publicly mentioned.”

The 69 witnesses at the hearing were evenly split, half  supporting  the merger and half opposing it.

It was left to opponents of the merger – who included media reform activists, civil rights groups, and other nonprofits – to address a range of concerns, including the threat posed by media concentration to diversity of voices including minority representation; the future of Telemundo and funding for public access cable television; concerns about network neutrality; and Comcast’s record on labor and consumer issues.

As Newstips reported in July, a Comcast-NBC merger would hit particularly hard in Chicago, one of Comcast’s top three markets (and one of eleven cities where it’s the dominant cable and interpet provider) and one of three cities where NBC owns two television stations.

Critics say the merger would cost jobs, hike cable rates, undermine labor standards for telecommunications workers, and create anti-competitive pressures that could force other stations to cut back news operations.

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