Comcast CEO Grilled About GLAAD Awards, MSNBC's Liberal Bent

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts

During a shareholder meeting, Brian Roberts also answered a question about the high pay of CFO Michael Cavanagh.

Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts on Thursday answered questions about the liberal bent of MSNBC and the presence of company staff at the GLAAD Media Awards during the company's first-ever virtual annual shareholder meeting.

Comcast “must appeal to all sectors of the population,” said one shareholder in a submitted question, arguing it shouldn’t take positions on any cultural issue that "divide" people. “The recent Xfinity LGBT presence at the GLAAD Awards” and its microsite was “no more neutral than it would be for Comcast to hire picketers at an abortion [clinic],” the shareholder argued. Xfinity is Comcast's digital cable service.

Roberts responded: “We are a diverse and inclusive company, and we respect all perspectives and points of view" of employees and customers, he said, adding: "Thank you for your point of view."

Xfinity promoted the GLAAD Awards, with Jean-Claire Fitschen, executive director of multicultural consumer services in TV, writing in a blog post that the service was putting the spotlight on the community in connection with the awards. "In addition, for the whole month of April, we’ve polished up the LGBT TV & Film Collection with hundreds of quality LGBT-themed storylines, romance, dramas, classics, thrillers, documentaries plus GLAAD-nominated TV and Films," Fitschen said.

Another question focused on the performance and outlook of MSNBC, with a shareholder saying CNN boss Jeff Zucker has put more conservatives on the air, arguing that "CNN was a little too liberal." CNN has doubled its target audience and is roughly doubling the audience of MSNBC, the shareholder said, citing The Wall Street Journal. "MSNBC caters to liberals, at 24 percent the smallest ideological demographic," the shareholder added. "As this makes no sense, I ask you: Is Comcast using MSNBC and its loyalty to the Obama administration and other liberal elected officials ... to promote Comcast's [efforts.]" Otherwise, "Why aim for third?" the question concluded.

Roberts said: "Under Andy Lack’s leadership, who is the president of NBC News, who joined us in the last year or so, I think MSNBC has made terrific improvements in ratings and continues to have a wonderful roadmap ahead."

A group of shareholders has in recent years repeatedly used the annual Comcast meeting to question MSNBC's focus and positioning.

Roberts also got a question about the high pay in 2015 for new CFO Michael Cavanagh, whose $36.2 million package made him the nation's highest-paid CFO. Roberts said his pay was driven by onetime compensation to recruit him, something "that we have done in the past" that has worked “very well for us.” He also said: "We are thrilled as a company to have Mr. Cavanagh as our new chief financial officer."