By Alex Weprin
The participants in the meeting were Jordan Goldstein, senior director of regulatory affairs for Comcast, Margaret Tobey, VP of regulatory affairs for NBC Universal as well as outside counsel for both companies. For the FCC, staffers from the office of the general counsel, office of strategic planning & policy analysis and from the FCC’s media bureau were all represented.
According to the ex parte letter, which was filed with the FCC October 7, the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the public interest commitments made by Comcast, as well as what role the new company would play in the FCC’s “Future of Media” project. NBC’s news and public affairs programming looks to play a big part of that, if this section of the letter is any indication:
Specifically, the participants discussed both companies’ historic and ongoing commitments to their local communities and the ways in which the transaction will benefit communities and citizens by allowing NBCU to expand its production and distribution of local news on multiple platforms. In addition, the participants discussed commitments offered by Comcast with respect to public, educational, and governmental (“PEG”) programming. Consistent with the goals of the FOM proceeding, Comcast and NBCU also provided information on the companies’ efforts to nurture the next generation of professional journalists.
Unfortunately, the specifics of what was discussed was not included in the letter, so the “companies’ efforts to nurture the next generation of professional journalists” will have to remain a mystery for now. But if nothing else, the meeting shows that the FCC is seriously looking at whether Comcast has any intention of changing NBC News or the network’s local and public interest programming in any way.
Others have speculated that Comcast is more likely to make changes at MSNBC, which the FCC does not have authority over. The problem there is that Comcast is a cable business partner of News Corp., which owns Fox News Channel, and Time Warner, which owns CNN.
For its part, Comcast maintains that it will keep the cable division of its business separate from the content division.