Comcast promises $20 million for venture capital fund for minority entrepreneurs
Comcast Corp. said it will contribute at least $20 million to a venture capital fund that the cable giant is creating to back minority entrepreneurs in developing new media content and technology.
The move is part of Comcast's effort to ease concerns from minority groups about its proposed deal to take control of General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal. A marriage of the biggest cable and broadband provider with a huge content company has some fearing that there will be a loss of diversity in both in the programming people see and the executives behind the scenes.
In a letter to Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), Comcast also said it would add to its systems four cable networks whose majority owners are African American.
Comcast timed the release of its letter to Rush to a hearing that the House Energy and Commerce Committee held in Chicago on Thursday morning about the merger. Although she is not a member of that committee, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), one of the deal's harshest critics, was in attendance and criticized NBC for a lack of diversity on its news programming, one attendee said.
The commitment to start a venture capital fund comes a week after Comcast extended several olive branches to the Latino community. Among other things, Comcast said it would add a Latino to its board of directors within two years of the close of its deal with NBC Universal.
While Comcast is making many promises, wooing a lot of politicians and committing a lot of money to get this deal through Washington, there is still a lot of opposition. Several companies and groups including business news giant Bloomberg, which fears that NBC's CNBC will get a leg up if it is owned by Comcast, Writers Guild West and East and Free Press are teaming up to form the Coalition for Competition in Media.
The deal, which is being reviewed by both the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department, is unlikely to close until late this year at the earliest.
-- Joe Flint
Photo: Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. Credit: Matt Rourke / Associated Press