Comcast Corp will offer new programing targeted at African and Asian Americans if it is allowed to buy a majority stake in General Electric Co's NBC Universal, the company announced this week in agreements with civil rights groups.
The decision to boost diversity efforts comes as the company awaits approval from the U.S. Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission to complete a proposed merger that would create a combined broadcast, cable, movie studio and theme parks business.
Comcast said in agreements filed with the FCC that it would add four new cable networks either owned or partly owned by African-Americans within eight years.
It would also expand an existing channel carrying Asian-American programing to more markets, or create a new English-language channel that caters to Asian-American interests.
In a letter to the FCC, the Reverend Al Sharpton and other civil rights leaders said the joint venture between Comcast and NBCU would spur diversity by increasing the participation of minorities in its news and public affairs programing and enhancing opportunities for minorities within its writing staff.
An agreement was signed by Comcast and NBCU executives and civil rights groups including the NAACP, National Urban League and National Action Network, according to a memorandum of understanding between the groups and Comcast.
A separate agreement was signed by the Asian American Justice Center, East West Players, the Japanese American Citizens League, the Organization of Chinese Americans, and the Media Action Network for Asian Americans.
Both agreements call for increasing minority representation in all levels of the combined company's corporate structure and would create diversity councils to advise senior executives on diversity initiatives.
Representative Henry Waxman, head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, earlier in the month urged the FCC to complete its review of the Comcast-NBCU merger by the end of the year.
Time is running short to do this as the FCC tackles controversial Internet traffic rules next week, and the holidays will likely see many officials leave town.
(Reporting by Jasmin Melvin; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)