WGAE eyes $10 mil a year from Comcast-NBCU

For independent public affairs content on TV, Internet

The WGA East on Wednesday called on the FCC to require, in the case that it approves the Comcast-NBC Universal merger, the combined company to contribute at least $10 million a year for a decade for independent public affairs content on TV and the Internet.

Just like public TV funding, the money could be allocated by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting or a similar entity, WGAE president Michael Winship and executive director Lowell Peterson said in a letter to the FCC and its chairman Julius Genachowski, the U.S. Department of Justice and the House Judiciary Committee.

The group reiterated though that it hopes the deal will not be approved by regulators.

Further consolidation would further hurt public affairs programming, especially investigative reporting that the WGAE argued has "almost vanished completely from commercial on-air news." Said the group: "Instead of a town square where ideas flow freely, the news business business becomes more like a shopping mall dominated by a small number of megastores."

A Comcast spokeswoman said the company on the day it announced the NBC Universal deal promised to increase public affairs and news programming by 1,000 hours. And she highlighted that the deal has gained the support of the Independent Film & TV Alliance and several other unions, including the Directors Guild.