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. Iíve 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 Comcastís 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."