Reel Grrls and Comcast: What one tweet can show us.

As corporate takeover of media continues to infringe on our ability to have a free and objective press, last week one tweet from the amazing organization Reel Grrls, gave us a taste of just how vulnerable public dialogue and dissent can be to corporate media interests. Reel Grrls is a Seattle based group that builds the confidence and story-telling abilities of young and generally disenfranchised women through teaching them how to shoot and produce films. What was their beef? That Comcast-NBC Universal’s latest hire for VP of governmental affairs just happens to be a former FCC commissioner, Meredith Attwell Baker. Any onlooker would observe this with suspect.

The big nefarious tweet that caused the problem? “OMG! @FCC Commissioner Baker voted 2 approve Comcast/NBC merger & is now lving FCC for A JOB AT COMCAST?!?” Well, I had no idea tweet speak could mobilize corporate enterprise with such efficiency, I must say, I’m impressed.

Comcast decided that tweeting back wasn’t enough, instead they pulled 18K in funding from Reel Grrls summer program,

The company cut off funding for Reel Grrls’ summer camp, where 15 teenage girls learn documentary script writing, editing and filmmaking.

The reaction to the funding cutoff was also severe — and added to consumer advocates’ criticism of Comcast. Some are trying to drum up a congressional investigation into whether Baker’s new job presents a conflict of interest. Baker had criticized the FCC’s review of Comcast’s joint venture with NBC Universal for taking too long and voted in favor of the merger in a 4 to 1 decision in January.

The apparent revolving door has been the fodder of satire and criticism by late-night TV comedians, newspaper editorials and consumer groups. And the move by Comcast to scrap funding for a small nonprofit for questioning Baker’s appointment only shows how influential a giant media company can be, the critics say.

Baker starts her new job June 3. She has recused herself from any further FCC votes and hasn’t indicated her exact departure date from the agency.

The reaction was clearly a bit severe and almost sci-fi in that “you shall obey the evil man” kind of way, but Comcast has rescinded and apologized for their overreaction due to the amount of publicity this debate has gotten. But the initial point stands–this is one example of the kind of public debate that is threatened by major media company mergers.

In response, Reel Grrls has a little video message for Comcast.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted May 24, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Wow…wow…I already loathed Comcast (for obvious reasons), but they pulled funding from Reel Grrls?? Reel Grrls is by far one of my absolute favorite Seattle-based organizations. I don’t know if I’m going to count the ‘silver lining’ of at-least-Reel-Grrls-is-enough-of-a-presence-for-Comcast-to-pull-funding-because-of-tweets …because I think in Comcast’s eyes it’s we-will-crush-anyone-who-even-references-our-huge-control-of-the-’market’.

  2. Posted May 24, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    You need the rest of the story:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-tech/post/reel-grrls-turns-down-comcast-funds-cites-free-expression/2011/05/20/AFYAJx7G_blog.html

    Comcast reinstated the funding, and Reel Grrls turned them down.

  3. Posted May 25, 2011 at 2:20 am | Permalink

    Whether or not the removal of funds was reversed, there’s a “reel” message here: if we continue to allow government agencies to become captive rubber-stamps for the very corporations they are entrusted to regulate, then our freedoms are at serious risk.

    Every time a corporate oligarchy gains power, the general public loses. Every damn time.

    This will never change unless we take two steps: enforcing a 20-year waiting period for former legislators / appointees to lobby their former workplace; and legitimate campaign finance reform, where all candidates adhere to strict spending limits. (This will also radically reduce corporate welfare – a tax dividend awaits!)

    Imagine watching TV in the fall of an election year and not being incessantly hammered with libelous commercials full of B.S.? Imagine our elected representatives being forced to compete with one another with only their ideas, instead of fear-mongering via the “other”?

    Bravo, Reel Grrls, bravo!

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