May 23, 2014

Protest of Merger at Comcast Shareholders Meeting in Philadelphia

Protesters outside the Comcast shareholders meeting hold signs
indicating the number of people who oppose the merger deal.
Photo credit: Viviana Pernot, Staff Photographer
On Wednesday about 100 Comcast shareholders met in Philadelphia for the company’s annual shareholders meeting. Outside, national policy and consumer groups protested Comcast’s proposed $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable. Groups represented included Free Press, Common Cause, Media Mobilizing Project, Consumers Union and Center for Media Justice.  They used the opportunity to present a petition with more than 400,000 signatures from people who object to the merger.

At the meeting, shareholders reelected Comcast board members and approved compensation packages for Comcast executives, including CEO Brian Roberts who earned $30 million last year. Shareholders also rejected several proposals, including a request from the Episcopal Church calling on the company to be more transparent about its government lobbying activities. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Comcast spent almost $19 million on lobbying efforts last year, and is one of the country’s top corporate spenders.

Also represented at the meeting was the Chicago branch of the IBEW, who called on the company to settle a longstanding dispute over technicians’ contracts. As detailed extensively on this blog, also unresolved in Chicago is Comcast’s cable franchise renewal, where public benefits to community resource CAN TV are still being negotiated a year into the process.


May 16, 2014

May Cable Compliance Hearing Attended by CMA Members

CMA members Gwendolyn Chubb and Robbie Smith attended this month’s Cable Compliance Review on May 14. Both testified to the importance of CAN TV to the community and questioned the City on its handling of the Comcast negotiations.

Robbie began her comments by stating that “CAN TV is a valuable Chicago asset and it must be protected and sustained, but it appeared that efforts are underway to prevent that from happening.” She gave background on CMA’s advocacy efforts, including meeting with Comcast.  She testified that several CMA members attended the March Committee on Finance meeting and listened carefully to questions from Aldermen specifically:  (1) Do the outstanding renewal issues relate to CAN TV? (2) What is Comcast’s annual revenue in Chicago?  (3) Will a renewal agreement that meets the RCN standards be complete by the extension deadline on June 15th?   Robbie testified that if there is not an agreement by that date, that means Comcast does not agree to the three critical issues CMA presented to Comcast, BACP Commissioners (both Krimbel and Lapacek), and members of the City Council.  She stressed the three points:  1) Provide direct and unrestricted funding to CAN TV, 2) meet or exceed the RCN agreement, and 3) provide technological equality to the public’s channels.  Robbie emphasized that the City Law Department’s representative Jeff Levine told Aldermen that they were working to make the agreement meet the RCN standards or better, and that an agreement would be ready by June 15th or sooner.  She pointedly asked the city for an updated response to the three key questions Alderman asked and Jeff Levine and the city answered at the March meeting.  Finally, Robbie stated that Corporate Social Responsibility seems to have changed from “socially driven” to “profit driven”.

When Gwendolyn spoke she reminded the City that she had testified at a Cable Hearing nearly one year ago, and she questioned why the negotiations were taking so long. She said, "With so much community support for CAN TV, in conjunction with expressed support by so many public officials from Aldermen to State Legislators to Congressmen, I truly don't understand what is taking Comcast so long to finalize the agreement." She described the importance of CAN TV and its unique ability to provide a platform for nonprofit groups and community service providers in the City to reach the people that need them. She also pointed out that public access centers have been shut down by Comcast, and also that New York City has a strong agreement from Time Warner that Comcast will have to honor.