‘Journalistic Independence,’ NBCLatino and BBC World News: Highlights From Comcast’s NBCU Filing

By Alex Weprin 

This morning Comcast filed its first annual report with the FCC concerning its acquisition of NBCUniversal. The report updates the FCC on how it has followed through on the promises it made in order to get the deal approved. We pored through the document and pulled out some of the bits relevant to TV news.

Journalistic Independence

Comcast guaranteed that NBC News and the local news stations would have journalistic independence from its corporate owners. Comcast reveals that NBC News ombudsman David McCormick expanded his responsibilities last year to include a role as counsel to all NBCU units that conduct newsgathering. It also highlighted the hiring of Kevin Keeshan to serve as an ombudsman for the local stations.

The company also formulated a specific policy for news independence, forbidding Comcast employees from interfering in NBC News operations, and guaranteeing NBC News employees that they are free to report on Comcast however they wish. A copy of that statement is below.

Relationships with Outside Networks

Comcast revealed that it plans on expanding its carriage of international cable news channel BBC World News in 2012. So far international cable news channels have failed to gain much distribution in the U.S., but by adding the BBC channel to a number of new markets, Comcast may provide it with enough of a footprint to help it gain distribution on other carriers.

The filing also shows that NBC News will formally launch its English-language Hispanic news website NBCLatino.com in April 2012. Right now the site exists in a beta form at NBCLatino.tumblr.com.

Comcast also reiterated its position with regards to Bloomberg, which has argued that the neighborhooding clause in the NBCU deal requires Comcast to place Bloomberg TV in the same channel “neighborhood” as CNBC and other cable news channels. Comcast argues that it only applied to newly created TV news neighborhoods, Bloomberg says it applies to existing ones. That dispute is still ongoing.

NBC News policy on independence:

NBC News Policy requires that the NBCUniversal news organizations treat Comcast, our various divisions, subsidiaries, products and services in the same manner as any other company, product or service. Consistent with this policy, neither Comcast nor any of our joint venture partners will receive, should expect to receive, or should seek to receive different or special treatment of any kind. Comcast employees should not ask any NBCUniversal news organization to investigate, develop, broadcast or report stories about Comcast, our products or services or any other subject whatsoever.