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Universal Pictures gives producer De Passe historic moment

October 17, 2011 |  1:17 pm

In June 2010, when its merger was under heavy attack from lawmakers, regulators, members of the creative community and minority activist groups, independent producer and former Motown Productions President Suzanne de Passe testified at a congressional hearing that Comcast's plans to acquire control of NBC Universal was not necessarily a bad thing.

A combination of Comcast and NBC "presents the opportunity for doors to open," she said in written testimony at a House Judiciary Committee field hearing held in Los Angeles. While she warned that in general media consolidation has hurt minority producers such as herself, she said, "Comcast has both the financial and distribution resources to use this opportunity to create meaningful and institutional change in a system that has proven it will not do so on its own ... this can be a historic moment for minorities."

Now Comcast is putting its money where De Passe's mouth is as its Universal Pictures has signed a three-year, first-look production deal with De Passe Jones Entertainment, the production company she runs with Phillip Madison Jones.

“Suzanne and Madison are trailblazing producers who have great respect in multiple divisions of the entertainment industry,” said Universal Pictures Chairman Adam Fogelson and co-Chairman Donna Langley in a joint-statement.  “We are fortunate to work with such respected partners and look forward to their upcoming projects with the studio.”

In a statement, De Passe and Jones said they are “are excited and honored to have the opportunity to work closely with the immensely talented team of executives at Universal to produce films in a variety of genres.”

De Passe's testimony was a much-needed shot in the arm for Comcast's efforts to get approval for its merger from government regulators. At that same hearing, Stanley Washington, chief executive of the National Coalition of African American Owned Media and one of the most outspoken critics of the merger, called Comcast a "plantation." Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) even suggested Comcast tried to buy her support for the deal, an accusation the cable giant denied.

-- Joe Flint


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Photo: Suzanne de Passe. Credit: Universal.