Seattle weighs in on Comcast shareholder proposal

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Seattle community advocates: Comcast is out of touch with its shareholders, its employees and its customers

[Reclaim the Media statement, 1 June 05]

Seattle community advocates concerned with issues of media consolidation are urging Comcast shareholders to vote in favor of a "one share/one vote" proposal at their annual meeting in Philadelphia today. Under the current system of governance, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts holds one third of the voting power, despite owning less than 3% of the company's total outstanding equity. A shareholder resolution submitted by the Communication Workers of America Member Relief Fund would replace that skewed system.

"This super-majority in the hands of a single executive is a dangerous concentration of power for a media giant like Comcast," said Jonathan Lawson, executive director of advocacy group Reclaim the Media. "Comcast is in a position to control the everyday TV and Internet experiences of millions of Americans, yet the company is shockingly averse to even the most basic accountability structures. The Roberts family has shut out their customers, their employees - and even their shareholders."

Seattle media democracy advocates are concerned that powerful media companies such as Comcast not only control what we watch and hear, but also disregard customer concerns, even bullying the communities in which they provide service. In communities like Seattle, Comcast has effective monopoly access, and the company can charge rates as high as they like, while aggressively fighting communities' efforts to require public benefits as part of local cable franchise agreements.

Karen Toering, codirector of Reclaim the Media, said: "Comcast is earning record profits - last year they were even prepared to buy the entire Disney Corporation. Yet when it comes to dealing with real people, they plead poverty, saying they can't afford to support community media, they can't afford to let their employees negotiate for fair wages, they can't afford to provide institutional networks for local government services. It's just ridiculous."

The City of Seattle is in negotiations with Comcast to renew the company's local franchise agreement. Reclaim the Media is leading a community campaign encouraging city leaders to press for public benefits such as modern technology infrastructure for public schools, libraries and institutions; increased support for public access TV; privacy rights and fair rates for consumers; non-discriminatory Internet access for local homes and businesses; and workplace rights for Comcast's local employees.

For more information on the shareholder resolution proposed by the CWA Member Relief Fund, see www.reclaimthemedia.org/stories.php?story=05/04/26/0177530

For more information on cable franchise issues in the Seattle area and elsewhere, see
www.reclaimthemedia.org/comcast

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey