Comcast Pulls Its Sponsorship For Reel Grrls Over A Tweet, Learns How Not To Do PR

from the vindictive-much? dept

Over the last week or so, there’s been plenty of controversy over FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker’s decision to join Comcast as a lobbyist just months after approving the Comcast/NBC Universal merger. While most of the criticism has been directed at Baker, it appears that Comcast has now managed to turn the negative attention towards itself. It seems that Reel Grrls, a nonprofit that tries to help “empower young women” by teaching them how to do media production via a daycamp, had posted a short tweet about the Baker story:

OMG! @FCC Commissioner Baker voted 2 approve Comcast/NBC merger & is now lving FCC for A JOB AT COMCAST?!?

Thing is, Comcast apparently is one of the sponsors of Reel Grrls. Now, a smart sponsor realizes that it doesn’t always agree with those it sponsors. Otherwise, it comes off looking like propaganda, rather than reasonable sponsorship. So apparently, Steve Kipp, who is the VP of Communications at Comcast and who had been in charge of the sponsorship, sent Reel Grrls an email saying that due to the tweet, he would no longer sponsor them:

Malory: Please read the Tweet above. Given the fact that Comcast has been a major supporter of Reel Grrls for several years now, I am frankly shocked that your organization is slamming us on Twitter. This is not the first time either. I?ve seen at least one other negative Tweet about Comcast. I cannot in good conscience continue to provide you with funding–especially when there are so many other deserving nonprofits in town.

I respect your position on freedom of the press. However, I hope you can respect that this Tweet has put me in an indefensible position with my bosses. I cannot continue to ask them to approve funding for Reel Grrls, knowing that the digital footprint your organization has created about Comcast is a negative one.

The Reel Grrls folks, smartly, went to the press about this, leading to national press coverage, and to Comcast going into crisis mode (yet again) and backing down, promising that it would keep funding Reel Grrls. It also claimed that Kipp was “acting alone” and someone higher ranked than him was reaching out to the Reel Grrls to apologize:

“This morning I was shocked to learn that someone on my team reached out to you to withdraw our funding. I apologize for Steve’s email, and assure you that Comcast’s funding of Reel Grrls will continue,” [Senior VP Len] Rozek wrote. “Comcast has long been a proud sponsor of Reel Grrls and your youth leadership development programs designed to empower young women through media production. Your organization aligns with our company’s investment priorities, and your positive impact on the girls and women you serve in Washington is making a real difference here in Washington.”

In response, Reel Grrls has said that it will refuse funding from Comcast and, instead, will redesign its summer day camp program to “focus on free press issues.” They also stated that, “We appreciate Comcast?s desire to rectify this situation and hope to encourage them to craft a corporate policy that clearly defends freedom of expression in order to ensure that this situation does not arise again.”

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Comments on “Comcast Pulls Its Sponsorship For Reel Grrls Over A Tweet, Learns How Not To Do PR”

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Paul (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I have never heard of Reel Grrls before, but because of Comcast I have. And because of their stand, I will donate to them. I can’t be alone, and I am sure they will actually come out ahead by taking a stand.

Pout? Don’t be stupid. Just because you refuse funding from a proven slime ball doesn’t mean you are pouting.

trish says:

Re: JC's comment

If Reel grrls hadn’t gone to the press they would never have apologized. It must have seemed obvious to them as it does to me that Comcast only did this to avoid bad press. Being an arse and then apologizing for it doesn’t mean you’re not an arse. Besides, the whole point is empowerment, and they do have the power to refuse funding from an arse if they please. Standing up for your values is sometimes more valuable than shutting up for some cash.

JC says:

Re: Re: JC's comment

So, what? Apologies aren’t good enough anymore? I’d hate to have a relationship with you.

Reel Grrls took Comcast’s money even though Comcast has a proven record of being an ass to pretty much everyone. When it actually affected Reel Grrls, though, they suddenly became “principled” and “empowered”. What a joke.

JC says:

Re: Re: Re:2 JC's comment

Person 1: I insult you!
Person 2: I’m not giving you any more money!
Person 1: I’m telling on you for not giving me money after I insulted you!
Person 3: I’m sorry! Person 2 had no authority to say I’m not giving you money. I still want to give you money. I like what you’re doing.
Person 1: Fuck you! I don’t want your money any more. I’ve discovered that I have principles!

Ideal world? No. Real world? Yes.

Jose_X (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 JC's comment


So Comcast gets very special treatment from our government, having our tax payer dollars used to defend and protect a Comcast monopoly and exclusive right to profit in certain key ways with public assets.

Yes, it’s rather unfair and many would argue Comcast owes us money and the government needs to stop hindering the rest of us, but let’s focus for a moment simply on the free speech issue.

The federal government hinders our ability to communicate in order to give Comcast exclusive profit opportunities here, yet Comcast now uses those profits to limit the public’s speech it doesn’t like.

This would seem like our federal government was complicit in abridging significant public speech.

So next time someone complains about how Comcast uses the profits they made from monopolies our government blessed them with, I’d give those people a little more benefit of the doubt rather than simply mocking them.

JC says:

Re: Re: Re:4 JC's comment

What does any of your little lecture have to do with what happened between Comcast and Reel Grrls? Reel Grrls isn’t refusing Comcast’s money because they think Comcast is a government supported monopoly (which they aren’t, by the way).

It’s pretty contorted logic to hear Comcast pulls funding for a charity and immediately think the US government is somehow complicit in abridging free speech.

AW says:

Re: Re: JC's comment

Just because someone in an abusive relationship treats you good when they are in a good mood and bad when you step out of line doesn’t mean you don’t forgive them, it means you forgive them AND get out of the abusive relationship otherwise you are stuck in the cycle of abuse. Obviously you don’t know anyone who has been subject to an abusive partner, so you wouldn’t understand the importance and relevance of breaking the cycle. This is a very important lesson for young women especially, though again, you probably missed that point.

It’s like the parable of the scorpion and the fox. A scorpion and a fox were at a water crossing, the scorpion asked the fox to swim him across the river, the fox said no, that the scorpion would sting him, the scorpion promises he will not. The fox agree and swims with the scorpion across the river, but midway through the scorpion stings the fox. The fox asks why the scorpion would sting the fox and doom them both and the scorpion says he can’t help it, he’s a scorpion.

JC says:

Re: Re: Re: JC's comment

I don’t think that Comcast funding your organization would be considered an abusive relationship. This is more like a petty argument between two entities who both benefited from their arrangement. Comcast attempted to repair that relationship, regardless of their motives, and in the same manner, Reel Grrls decided to deny their attempt. Reel Grrls now looks as if they’re petty while Comcast almost immediately reversed their decision. Comcast wins.

Jose_X (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 JC's comment

Comcast is not in a position to use profits made on the public’s airwaves to fund speech that they like.

I am sure they fund various activities with the understanding it helps them preserve their monopolies and gain favors from decision-makers at our expense. Whether these favors are in ink or not, it would not fly with the public for them to be given free reign to pick these things. They do not want an angry public given their special privileged position.. especially when it comes to speech control and when its the feds that are supporting them and holding back everyone else (First Amendment violation).

It’s very possible they knew the group would get angry from a “mix-up” and they could always apologize. What they probably are not expecting is that this would help draw more attention to the issue and disgust for Comcast and the feds that partook in this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“I wonder how many grrls won’t be empowered now. Pretty lame response by Reel Grrls.”

If you don’t like the job Reel Grrls is doing, you are perfectly free to start your own media production daycamp and run it however you see fit. I know you won’t, cause it’s pretty obvious you couldn’t care less about “how many grrls won’t be empowered now”.

sumquy (profile) says:

wow. seems to be a lot of hate for comcast on here! while i love my cynical corp bashing alter ego as much as the next quy, i don’t have any experience personally with them, under that brand. in my part of the country they go by the labels at&t and time warner.

while i was reading this, though, i actually felt good about comcast. afaik this story broke this morning, and before the sun had set comcast did everything they could to correct the situation. call it a ray of hope, in an otherwise bleak expanse of corporate depravity and gluttony.

comcast is at its core just a group of people. like people everywhere some of them are very smart and some don’t have the sense god gave a doorknob. sometimes the subhuman/doorknob rises to the position of VP of Communications at Comcast. the commendable thing here is that the big chiefs recognized and rectified the disreputable behavior instead of digging in their heels and insisting that they were right.

public condemnation instead of government regulation FTW!

Jose_X (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Comcast is a for-profit business created to maximize this effect. It makes oodles of dough off a federal government granted monopoly on a public resource. It recently took some steps that have drawn a fair amount of attention to them. They lash out at one such group by threatening to use their public asset based monopoly profits to curtail speech. The public anger rightfully continues to grow.

At some point, you have to believe they will realize their bottom line is aligned with not getting the public more and more and more and more angry. Quick, apologize.

Ed Hands says:

I'm pretty sure....

that Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Speech has nothing to do with either Comcast nor Reel Grrls…

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Please note the very first word there…”Congress” Last I checked, Comcast was NOT Congress. Civics 101, people. You may not like it, but there is no protection of Free Speech between individuals. Comcast had every right to pull their funding. Reel Grrls was just being naive to the realities of the world.

VMax says:

The Register

This story was covered by The Register. “No one covered in glory” I responded to their “Uh, they’re both wrong”. Pissed the writer off. I submit my (and their response). I hope they don’t sue for me re-publishing the writer’s answer to me.
> A big company gave them a little more than I give to
> charities in a year. They called into question, no actual
> insult, a bad policy decision, and the big guys pull
> funding. Now a Reg hack says that “both sides were wrong”.
> No, one side was a jerk, one side said “You guys are jerks,
> and we don’t need to be beholden to you”. But seems that
> after pissing off Apple, the Reg is going to bow down to
> big companies too. I know, it’s a business, you can’t get
> ahead if you don’t kowtow to big players. It just shows to
> me that the Reg will slant more towards the big players,
> and I can’t trust any opinion written here.

If you don’t mind me responding, may I say from my pre-journalist years as a fundraising professional, I do believe that you are 100% wrong when it comes to ensuring the health of non-profits and the funding streams they receive from corporations. When one corporate operant makes an error, and their superiors correct it, there’s no reason to spit at their largess.

It was a relatively low-level Comcast bozo who cut Reel Grrls’ funding, then his boss put him in his place and re-instated that funding. Then Reel Grrls, rather than accepting Comcast’s apology for that low-level jerk-off’s over-reaction, decided to get on their high horse and haughtily refuse the reinstatement of the grant. To what purpose? By doing so, they hurt the young women who they were trying to help by refusing funding for their summer school.

Oh, and your statement: “I know, it’s a business, you can’t get ahead if you don’t kowtow to big players. It just shows to me that the Reg will slant more towards the big players, and I can’t trust any opinion written here.”

Hmmm… I guess you don’t read much Reg, nor know that, for example, Apple, never even responds to our requests for comment, never allows us to attend product rollouts, and never … well … would spit in our mouths if were dying of thirst.

And calling me a “hack”? Well, I guess that’s you’re prerogative. May I, in response, call you an uninformed na?f when it comes to the mechanics of non-profit finding?


Max says:

I dont know how I really feel about this, I feel if anything the media is kind’ve twisting this story to bring up the political hype. Imagine if a Nascar Driver was on tv slandering his sponsors, the natural reaction would be he’d lose his sponsorship. Any idiot would, you don’t bite the hand that feeds you. I know Comcast is out in the public, and its easy to twist and point the finger about this being cruel, but take a second to really think about what happened. No person here would continue giving their friend money if they’re friend slandered them using that money.

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