Congresswoman Maxine Waters blasts FCC's conditions on Comcast - NBC deal
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), whose blistering criticisms of NBC Universal and Comcast Corp. during the regulatory review of their merger became so well known it even led to a parody of her on the network's critically acclaimed sitcom "30 Rock," criticized the conditions imposed by the Federal Communications Commission, which approved the deal last week.
In a statement issued Tuesday morning, Waters said, "There is nothing in the Commission’s order that Comcast-NBC did not agree to or previously offer as their 'public interest commitments' early in the review proceedings."
Last week, the FCC released its 279-page review and approval of the merger. In it, Comcast agreed to commitments that included the launching of several new independent cable channels and promised more content aimed at minority groups and an increase in local news and kids programming. The company also said it would not withhold its content from rival distribution services nor block content on its own platforms that competes with its own programming.
Waters said she doubts the conditions will be strong enough to coerce Comcast to meet its commitments. "I do not believe the American public can have much confidence in Comcast-NBCU’s commitment to launch 10 new independent channels when current networks have had so many challenges negotiating reasonable carriage terms with the cable giant," she said.
All throughout the almost yearlong review of the deal, Waters was a thorn in the side of both companies. Last February, she interrogated NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker (who is expected to leave the company later this week after the deal closes) about NBC's lack of diversity in front of and behind the camera.
"Is there some assumption that black programming is not profitable?" Waters asked Zucker. She then suggested that she could help set up some meetings for NBC with prominent African American writers and producers.
So memorable was that hearing that NBC's "30 Rock" lampooned it several months later with Queen Latifah playing a fictional congresswoman named Regina Bookman who rakes NBC executives over the coals for their lack of diversity. A Waters spokesman had no comment on the parody.
Waters wasn't the only lawmaker "30 Rock" took aim at. Rob Reiner also played a member of congress who seemed to be loosely based on Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), another harsh critic of the deal and a former performer and writer on "Saturday Night Live."
-- Joe Flint
Photos: Top left: Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Credit: Harry Hamburg/Associated Press. Bottom right: Queen Latifah as Congresswoman Regina Bookman on NBC's "30 Rock." Credit: NBC Universal.