Three years ago, Donald Trump reversed FCC broadband privacy rules meant to limit how Internet providers like Comcast use and sell customer data.
That data can include what subscribers watch on TV or say into their remote; what and where they shop, read news, or socialize online; their geo location; or their call history and text messages. Comcast now has a million Xfinity Home customers using indoor and/or outdoor security cameras. It’s also launching a health monitoring device with a tracking service.
Comcast claims it does “…not sell, and have never sold, information that identifies” who its 55 million subscribers are.
Part of the almost $30 million Comcast spent on lobbying in 2016 and 2017 went to rejecting the FCC rules. For the 2016 elections, Comcast employees and PACs gave 265 Republicans almost $1.5 million—including the $250,000 Comcast donated to Trump’s inauguration.
Eight months after Trump and the GOP reversed the broadband privacy rules, Trump-appointed FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai and the two other Republican commissioners voted to deregulate the broadband industry and eliminate certain net neutrality rules.
Comcast says it will not “block, throttle or discriminate against lawful content on the Internet” but it’s in favor of “paid prioritization”, which would let a company like Netflix or Hulu pay an ISP for preferential treatment.
Comcast and the other telecoms also don’t believe broadband Internet access should be classified as a public utility. This is one example of Comcast’s priorities coinciding with conservative groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity.
For more than a decade, they’ve all spent millions of dollars to lobby state legislatures against creating municipal broadband networks. They’ve worked to intimidate public officials with lawsuits, op-eds, polls, door-to-door canvassing, election opponents, campaign donations and biased research from think tanks willing to portray public broadband as unreliable and expensive.
There are now at least 25 states that block or ban public broadband networks.
Byron Allen is currently suing Comcast for $20 billion in the U.S. Supreme Court. Allen, a former comedian and talk show host who controls Hollywood’s largest African American-owned entertainment company, claims the company refuses to carry his cable channels because he’s black.
Comcast says it refuses to carry Allen’s channels because of their low ratings and that if it makes a valid decision for business reasons, it doesn’t matter if race is a part of that decision. Trump agrees.
The DOJ inserted itself into the case before it was heard last November and suggested that for Comcast to be found guilty of racial discrimination, Allen should have to prove that race was “absolutely the only reason why” Comcast didn’t accept his networks. Allen believes he should only have to prove that race was a factor in the decision.
“This is historic. Donald Trump’s DOJ and Comcast are working together to destroy a civil rights statute in the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Allen. SCOTUS is expected to announce its decision in the spring.
In all three instances — personal data security, affordable pubic access to the Internet, and racial discrimination — Trump and Comcast side against protections for the general public. And while Comcast and NBC management continue to personally support Democratic candidates, the companies they run support Republican causes.
Brian Roberts is a billionaire Democrat who became president of Comcast in 1990. His dad Ralph, who died in 2015, founded the company and was its CEO for almost a half century. An irony of Comcast is that the money Ralph used to initially fund it, was made from buying up small, TV operators in rural areas that the large broadcasters had ignored. They claimed it wasn’t cost effective. Today, Comcast refuses to serve many rural areas for the same reason.
Brian Roberts owns 1% of Comcast and 33% of its voting shares. He was the Chairman of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) — the Industry’s lobbying group — when the 1996 Telecommunications Act became law. Title III of the law (“Cable Services”) deregulated the broadcasting and telecom industries.
Since 1994, Comcast has given $19.4 million to Republicans and $16.4 million to Democrats. Roberts was a member of Barack Obama’s President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. A decade before that, he was a founding co-chair of Philadelphia 2000, the nonpartisan host committee for the 2000 Republican National Convention.
That was Ed Rendell’s last year as Philadelphia mayor. He was DNC Chairman for the 2000 Presidential election. He’s known Brian and and Ralph for more than 30 years.
He’s been a post-game Eagles analyst on Comcast SportsNet for 17 years and a political personality on MSNBC for years. He was the 45th Governor of Pennsylvania from 2003–2011 and a financial bundler for Hillary Clinton, Obama and Biden.
A few years ago, Rendell was revealed to be earning $5,000 a month as an advisor to Imperial Pacific, a Hong Kong-listed casino on the U.S. island of Saipan. The casino is being investigated by the DOJ and the FBI for human trafficking and money laundering. Its CEO is Mark Brown, the former CEO of Trump’s Atlantic City Casino operations.
David Cohen was Rendell’s chief of staff. He was also most recently the senior executive vice president, chief lobbyist and chief diversity officer for Roberts at Comcast. He’s resigning and transitioning into becoming senior counselor to Roberts starting next year.
It was Cohen who expanded Comcast’s lobbying efforts a decade ago by hiring the former aides of politicians who would be determining the fate of the Comcast and NBCUniversal merger. Two of them worked for Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), who were members of the Senate Commerce Committee and voted for the merger.
After two years of negotiating—including Roberts bringing in Fox executives Peter Chernin, Rupert Murdoch’s former number two guy, and Peter Liguori, former head of Fox Broadcasting, for consultation—the merger was approved. Four months later, Meredith Attwell Baker, one of the two Republican FCC commissioners who approved the deal, was hired by Comcast as a lobbyist.
The deal gave control of MSNBC, CNBC, NBC network to Roberts, Cohen and others who intended to bring a more bipartisan approach to the news its new media outlets produced.
Moving forward, Cohen said it wasn’t Comcast’s job “to shape the content that people receive. It is our job to facilitate the delivery of a diverse set of voices and opinions to consumers, and we believe it’s up to the consumer to decide which of that content he or she would like to listen to or watch…”
Jeff Shell is the new CEO of NBCUniversal. Before he started at Comcast 15 years ago, he was CEO of FOX Cable Network Group and oversaw FX, Fox Sports Net and its 21 owned or affiliated regional sports networks; Fox Movie Channel; Fox Sports World and Fox Sports World Español; National Geographic Channel; and Speed Channel. He was also on News Corp.’s executive committee.
Ailes had been working as president of CNBC and was building “America’s Talking,” a channel with a series of 1-hour segments on a range of news, social, political, economic and health related topics. It was cancelled two years later but is considered the seed for what MSNBC has become.
One of “America’s Talking” original shows was “Politics with Chris Matthews”. “I’m a friend of Roger’s,” Matthews has said. “I know all the attitudes people have about him, and I’ll tell you, I’m loyal as hell to this guy because he brought me in.”
Shell was the first president and CEO of Fox Cable Networks, which was the entity Murdoch created to manage all of News Corp’s cable holdings.
He’s also on the board of trustees for the National Constitution Center, the first museum dedicated to the history of the Constitution. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch is its current chairman of the board. Previous chairman include Joe Biden, Jeb Bush, Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush.
Doug DeVos is chairman of its executive committee and Richard M. DeVos, Sr. was a board of trustees member. Rendell is vice chair. The Davos Family Foundation has donated at least $10 million to the Center. Other contributors and partners include the Federalist Society, the Bezos Family Foundation, the Charles Koch Foundation, the Laura and Gary Lauder Family Venture Philanthropy Fund and the Jack Miller Center. The Center is a 501c3 private organization.
Professor Jeffrey Rosen is the President & CEO of the Center. He’s a contributor to the Federalist Society. Lee Liberman Otis, the Senior VP and Faculty Division Director of the Federalist Society, is a co-chair to the Center’s Coalition of Freedom Advisory Board. She’s also a former associate counsel to President George H.W. Bush and a law clerk to Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.
Former Comcast COO Steve Burke replaced NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Zucker after the merger. Burke is retiring this summer and being replaced by Shell. Burke is a Republican supporter who was named a “Ranger” by President W. Bush’s re-election campaign for raising more than $200,000. He later served on Bush’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology.
All men were in management when MSNBC reporter Ronan Farrow uncovered sexual assault allegations against Producer Harvey Weinstein and others. Farrow contends management covered everything up to protect themselves. He eventually went to The New Yorker where he published his stories and won a Pulitzer Prize.
Lack wanted “serious” news because of the dire circumstances America was in. His plan was to “re-brand MSNBC as a reliable provider of breaking news in contrast to its previous incarnation…”
He targeted the network’s progressive programming by firing or canceling the shows of Al Sharpton, Ronan Farrow, Alex Wagner, Melissa Harris Perry, Touré, Dorian Warren, Ed Schultz, Michael Eric Dyson, Adam Howard, Jamil Smith, Joy Reid, Jose Diaz-Balart, Tamron Hall and others.
In management’s push to “re-center” its news coverage, it hired Republicans Hugh Hewitt, New Gingrich, Reince Priebus, Cenk Uygur, Ben Ginsberg, Mike Murphy, George Will, Charlie Sykes, Steve Schmidt, Michael Steele, Greta Van Susteren, Nicolle Wallace and Megyn Kelly — her best ratings were interviews with Putin and Alex Jones.
In the run up to the last presidential election, Lack had no issues with supporting Trump.
“Donald Trump is leading our news coverage, and everybody else’s, because Donald Trump has cut a path through the Republican Party that is profound right now…The coverage we’re giving to Trump is arguably 24–7 because he’s got 40% in the polls,” said Lack.
Lack and MSNBC management remain.
Comcast offers subscribers a Russian international package of up to eight Russian TV channels for $34.99/month. One of those channels is RT.
Part of RT’s daily TV lineup includes Larry King’s two shows, “Larry King Now” and “PolitiKing”. After 27 years of interviewing more than 60,000 guests in front of a million nightly viewers, King officially left CNN in February 2012.
A month later, he and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu started Ora.tv, a production studio and digital TV network.
Ora signed its first deal to produce 100 hours of King’s commentary and interviews for Hulu. Those started airing in July 2012.
Hulu was launched to the public by NBCUniversal, News Corp. and Providence Equity Partners in 2008. Comcast has owned 33% of Hulu since it bought NBCUniversal. It sold that to Disney last May but continues to be an equity stakeholder. Shell is a Hulu board member.
Three months after signing the deal with Hulu, King moderated the Third-Party Candidate Debate with Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode and Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson. It was presented and televised by RT America and Ora.tv from Chicago.
A few months after the debate, King and Slim signed deal with RT America to exclusively broadcast King’s shows. They are produced by Ora and recorded in its Los Angelas studio and RT America’s Washington, D.C. studio. RT America was forced to register with the DOJ as a foreign agent in November 2017.
RT America brands them with its green logo and broadcasts them in the U.S. on Buckeye CableSystem, Channel Master, DIRECTV, Dish Network, sling, NEXTV, ROKU, Apple TV, Google Chromecast and RT online outlets. Its apps are available on Apple and Google stores.
RT America has 381,400 followers on Twitter and 1.1 million on Facebook.
King doesn’t seem to have any issues with his work being used to divide Americans. Or that his name and reputation lend credibility to those attacks.
“I have never — never — been edited or had a show of mine not run…They pay us a lot of money, and we need money to pay our producers and directors,” King said.
He’s interviewed a number of characters in Trump’s orbit since he was “elected”: Trump, Alan Dershowitz, Ben Carson, Jay Sekulow, Trump Org VP Jill Martin, Russian PM Sergey Lavrov. He interviewed Putin twice for CNN (2000, 2010).
King and Trump have been friends for almost 40 years. He says they talked every day during the presidential campaign but not much afterwards. He also admits his past employer’s biased toward Trump went a long way in getting Trump elected.
“(CNN) covered him as a character. They carried every speech he made. They carried him more than Fox News, at the beginning. And so they built the whole thing up…” King said.
CNN’s ratings for 2015 were some of it best in years. For the first time in nearly a decade, it topped MSNBC across the weeknight primetime hours (7pm-10pm) for ages 25–54. It was also the fastest growing Top 40 cable network for that age range.
He had 49 campaign rallies in 2015. At his first one after announcing his presidency, a small-business owner made an interesting observation.
“I think his TV show and all that stuff was publicity for this (the presidential run). I think he duped everybody,” said P.G. Adams. “What Obama proved is you have to get to that contingent of people who aren’t that into politics. And for people who are television watchers but aren’t paying attention, they’re going to say, ‘Hey, that guy who says, “You’re fired” is running? I’m voting for that guy because he’s a winner!’”
If that was the plan, it worked.
Zucker, the current CNN president, was president of NBC Entertainment when he bought Mark Burnett’s “The Apprentice” pilot. Zucker, Burnett and Trump built the show as a “virtual nonstop advertisement for the Trump empire and lifestyle.” More than 20 million viewers watched the first season.
Trump told them in the show’s opening that after he’d lost billions in real estate, “…I fought back and I won big league. I used my brain. I used my negotiating skills. And I worked it all out.”
Except it didn’t.
Just during the first season of “The Apprentice”, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts filed for bankruptcy. He also opened Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles, FL that year. It was was one of Trump’s South Florida towers that was found to have sold almost $100 million in property to wealthy Russians. Police later uncovered a prostitution ring there being run by Russians as well as a birth tourism scheme “particularly popular with the Russian birth tourists and Russian immigrants.”
Trump’s fake persona carried “The Apprentice” for 15 seasons. Zucker promoted it then and continued to do so as CNN president.
Trump and Burnett continue to talk and “have discussed reviving their creative partnership, pitching each other details on potential TV projects to be filmed after the Trump presidency.”
One idea has been “The Apprentice: White House” which would air shortly after Trump leaves office. It would “take full advantage of Trump’s status as a former president of the United States and a newfound Republican kingmaker.”