African Americans may now expect to see more Black shows on television in the future, as Comcast recently announced that it would commit at least $20 million to a fund for minority-owned media ventures.
According to Joseph W. Waz Jr., senior vice president, External Affairs and Public Policy Counsel, Comcast Corp., the cable company also will increase the number of independently owned and operated networks to its cable lineup. Waz announced Comcast’s new deal in testimony during a July 9 field hearing in Chicago to discuss the impact of a proposed Comcast-NBC Universal merger. The hearing was held by Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill.., who chairs the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet.
Comcast also plans to add at least 10 additional channels in the next eight years, Waz wrote in his testimony, which was posted on the subcommittee’s Web site. Of the added channels, at least four will be ones that are primarily owned by African Americans. At least two of these channels will be launched in the first two years after the deal is finalized. The company also explained that it would increase distribution of African American-owned networks and content on their On Demand services.
Comcast’s increased efforts to include diverse programming is likely in response to concerns voiced by minority groups such as the National Coalition of African-American Owned Media, who believe minority programming—and behind-the-scenes staffing—would be lost following the company’s partnership with NBC Universal. Comcast and NBC Universal revealed last month that they would increase efforts in diversifying programming and their workforce–which includes new recruitment and internship opportunities.
“Black people are starved for shows which not only feature lots of Black actors but that put Black culture front and center in a way they enjoy,” TV critic Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg Times told TheWrap.com.
In his testimony, civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson said “aggressive benchmarks” must be set to increase Black programming and also Black employment before and behind the camera.
“Most importantly, any agreement that is reached with Comcast to increase diversity must be enforceable,” he said. “Comcast must amend their license application to include these agreements so that the company is accountable to the promises they make.”