Comcast-Owned MSNBC Blasted For 8 Minute 'News' Love Letter to Comcast
from the fluff-and-nonsense dept
Comcast-owned MSNBC this week took a bit of a beating for an eight-minute “news” segment that was effectively little more than a sappy love letter to their parent company. The segment featured top Comcast lobbyist David Cohen, who years ago began calling himself the company’s “Chief Diversity Officer” to tap dance around federal lobbying rules (Comcast yells at us whenever we point that out). The program, aired during the company’s Morning Joe program, waxed poetic about Comcast’s altruism, at one point using Al Sharpton to compare Comcast?s corporate volunteerism with Nelson Mandela?s lifetime of civil rights work:
Comcast property MSNBC having its nominally independent analysts and hosts doing a cultish Comcast commercial was bad enough but Al Sharpton claiming Comcast was carrying on the work of Nelson Mandela was uh something else https://t.co/KrE5X5BsN4 pic.twitter.com/FLI3f116vs
— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) April 22, 2018
Several news outlets were quick to point out this glorified Comcast ad also saw prominent air time from numerous other Comcast-owned media properties, once again highlighting the perils of mindless media consolidation:
“But MSNBC wasn?t alone in covering Comcast Cares Day. NBC affiliates across the nation ?pitched in.? NBC Bay Area, for example, ran a PR?sounding segment that was a lot like all of the other ones. So did NBC 5 in Fort Worth, TX, NBC 10 in Philadelphia, NBC 4 in Los Angeles, NBC 5 in Chicago, and NBC Connecticut, to name a few. Other media outlets joined in, including ABC?s WTXL in Tallahassee, FL, The Denver Post, and The Tennessean, among others.”
Those of us that track Comcast for a living have been highlighting Cohen and Comcast’s disingenuous behavior on this front for several years now. While Comcast volunteer programs certainly can and do help people in some limited capacities, Cohen has perfected the act of using Comcast’s minority and low-income advocacy as a grotesque lobbying weapon to perpetuate policies that actively harm the communities Comcast professes to be helping.
For example, Comcast routinely pays some less ethical minority advocacy groups to parrot policies that actively harm their constituents, whether that’s supporting the death of net neutrality, the company’s latest megamerger, or the elimination of privacy protections for consumers. And Jesse Jackson has been used on occasion to actively oppose things like more cable box competition. This cozy quid pro quo is never put explicitly in writing, letting Cohen and friends become breathlessly indignant when reporters point out the disingenuous, cash-compromised nature of these relationships.
It’s a schtick larger media outlets are comically (perhaps intentionally) oblivious to, but one that has been immeasurably successful for Comcast and Cohen.
Cohen played the starring role in selling regulators on Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal in 2011, crafting conditions it would later be discovered Comcast ignored at its leisure. Cohen’s secret weapon during that transaction was Internet Essentials, a program that promised low-income households $10, 5 Mbps broadband for a limited time should they jump through a laundry list of conditions. The program was frequently criticized for being intentionally hard to qualify for, though it provided Cohen an endless sea of photo opportunities to help portray Comcast as a bottomless well of pure altruism.
Cohen’s minority and low-income advocacy schtick was so effective, he ultimately nabbed the title of “Chief Diversity Officer” to help further advertise his selfless altruism. Of course that title also conveniently lets Cohen tap dance around flimsy federal lobbying rules, which require an employee register as a lobbyist if they spend more than 20% of their time lobbying for a single client during any three-month span. And again, when you point this out, I’ve found that Comcast tends to get really upset with you.
The reality is that Comcast would need to do a hell of a lot more volunteering and donating to counter the obvious harm most of the company’s terrible policies have on the country. It’s indisputable that the company’s attacks on net neutrality and privacy protections will drive up costs and harm diverse media outlets and smaller businesses. Comcast’s support of protectionist state laws also routinely undermine efforts to bring competition to under-served broadband markets, driving up costs for everybody in the internet ecosystem (but especially the downtrodden parts of the country Comcast professes to adore).
This is a company that has proven time and time again that it doesn’t have your best interests at heart. But thanks to American M&A mania and our collective obliviousness to disinformation, the pretense that Comcast is a Robin-Hood-esque champion of the poor and downtrodden has proven immeasurably successful and profitable for what’s arguably the least liked company in America.