Last month, I wrote a column on media diversity in which I questioned the all-or-nothing negotiating stance that some critics have taken towards the Comcast/NBC Universal joint venture.
Demanding everything leaves us with nothing. We need to fight for real investment in programming for people of color, not token concessions that can be easily reversed when budgets get slim.
Since I wrote that column, Comcast has signed an agreement with three leading civil rights groups in which the companies make specific commitments to improving diversity.
In the memorandum of understanding (click here to read the MOU), Comcast commits to improving diversity in its corporate leadership, rank and file workforce, and outside vendors. The companies also promise to increase philanthropy to communities of color.
Perhaps most importantly, Comcast pledges to expand its commitment to minority programming, promising that eight of the ten new independent channels it plans to create in the wake of the deal will have substantial minority participation in either control, operation, or both. Under the agreement, African Americans will own a significant share of four of those new networks, two of which will be delivered in the first two years after the deal.
If the Comcast/NBC deal is approved, the agreement will mean more investment for minority programming and communities of color at a time when advertising dollars seem to be running scared.
Will the new channels Comcast/NBC has pledged to support be "Black enough?" For some critics -- those that can't see opportunities through the thick dogma they try to impose on the world -- the answer will be a callous 'no.'
For the young Black entrepreneurs, writers, producers, actors, and viewers, the answer is a resounding 'yes.' Luckily, these are the people that will make change happen. These are the people that hold the keys to the Black America of tomorrow.
For those who are not familiar with the history of what Black Culture can produce with ample investment it bears recalling that John Johnson built the Johnson Publishing empire from a five hundred dollar loan from his mother who sold her furniture to support his dream. Russell Simmons built the Def Jam empire from a few thousand dollar investment to independently produce and sell an LL Cool J single. Tyler Perry's empire started with a few thousand dollar effort to promote a play. Bob Johnson started BET Holdings with a six figure investment and a four hour a day programming time slot in the nascent cable industry.
As the forerunners of Black progress in America, the leading Civil Rights groups are aware of our history and recognize the unique opportunities and huge potential to build by uniting the talent and vision of our creative community with the resources pledged by Comcast. I urge the immediate approval of the deal to let the building begin.