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Protester of Comcast-NBC deal has interesting friends

July 1, 2010 |  4:12 pm

One of the most vocal critics of Comcast Corp.'s proposed acquisition of NBC Universal has been the National Coalition of African-American Owned Media. 

The head of the NCAAOM, Stanley Washington, is not afraid of inflammatory rhetoric. At a recent congressional hearing about the deal, NAACOM President Stan Washington called Comcast a plantation owner, and he once said that investors in the nation's largest cable and broadband company are "supporting apartheid right here in America."

But who is backing the NCAAOM? One of its biggest advocates, as we reported, is Kevin Martin, the former Federal Communications Commission chairman who has become very close to the NCAAOM since it first emerged a few months ago. Martin, who often clashed with Comcast and the rest of the cable industry when he was at the FCC, provides legal advice to the group. Martin is now with the D.C. law firm Patton Boggs and is also representing business news giant Bloomberg, which told the FCC that the Comcast-NBC merger should be blocked. Bloomberg owns a business channel and is worried that its bigger and more successful rival CNBC will have an unfair advantage if it is part of Comcast.

NCAAOM's  ties to Patton Boggs don't end with Martin. In a detailed report, CongressDaily, a website run by the National Journal, probed deeper into the NCAAOM and detailed more ties between the group and Patton Boggs. Another Patton Boggs lawyer, Kristin Wells, is also listed as a partner in NCAAOM.

There is also an interesting connection between TV personality Byron Allen and the NCAAOM that CongressDaily writer David Hatch details in his piece. Turns out that the NCAAOM's website is actually registered by Dennis Hardison, the general manager of Allen's syndication company Entertainment Studios. Allen, by the way, has shows that are carried by Verizon Fios, which, of course, competes with Comcast.

Washington balked at the suggestion that his group was a front and told CongressDaily that "to suggest that NCAAOM is anything but an independent, legitimate coalition advocating for diverse ownership in the media is totally false and not grounded in any specific facts." 

Of course, anyone familiar with the ways of Capitol Hill knows that often there is an agenda behind someone's agenda. For example, Bloomberg wants to get concessions out of Comcast that will help it compete with CNBC and is using the regulatory review of the Comcast - NBC deal as leverage. Comcast, meanwhile, has been busy drumming up support from every politician and city council member it can find. To borrow from "Casablanca," we're shocked to find there's gambling going on here.

-- Joe Flint

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