Feeds

Comcast 'Tweetgate' apology thrown back in face

If only everyone had read more G.B. Shaw

Build a business case: developing custom apps

In a corporate cock-up with more angles than an anorexic runway model, Comcast has splattered mud on itself in its attempt to silence a critic, and that critic's organization has cast itself as a holier-than-thou prig.

We'll boil down the background to this tangled tale of ego and incompetence into seven simple steps:

  1. In January of this year, the US Federal Communications Commission voted to approve Comcast's $6.5 billion deal to acquire NBCUniversal. One of the more pro-deal commissioners was Meredith Attwell Baker.
  2. On May 11, Baker announced that she would resign from the FCC and join Comcast as the governmental affairs liaison for the NBCUniversal division – lobbying the same government she just resigned from.
  3. On May 12, an employee of the Seattle, Washington non-profit Reel Grrls, which "empowers young women from diverse communities" by teaching them filmmaking, tweeted: "OMG! @FCC Commissioner Baker voted 2 approve Comcast/NBC merger & is now lving FCC for A JOB AT COMCAST?!?"
  4. On May 13, Comcast VP Steve Kipp emailed Reel Grrls, and told them that because of that tweet, his company was withdrawing the $18,000 grant they had pledged in support of the non-profit's filmmaking summer camp. "Given the fact that Comcast has been a major supporter of Reel Grrls for several years now," he wrote, "I am frankly shocked that your organization is slamming us on Twitter."
  5. Between Kipp's email and this Thursday, a firestorm of criticism erupted against Comcast, with articles appearing in The Washington Post, TechDirt, and elsewhere.
  6. On Thursday, Comcast said that cutting Reel Grrls' funding was wrong, that Kipp was acting beyond his reponsibilities, and that they would reinstate the $18,000.
  7. On Friday, Reel Grrls rejected Comcast's offer to reinstate the grant. Their spokeswoman, Teresa Mozur, encouraged the communications giant to "craft a corporate policy that clearly defends freedom of expression in order to ensure that this situation does not arise again."

No one has covered themselves with glory in this sad, sloppy saga. Not Baker for pulling her unsurprising but still-depressing revolving-door job switch. Not Kipp for expecting that a corporate donation carries with it a edict against criticism. And not Mozur for her high-and-mighty "Your money is dirty" feel-good stance, firing cheap shots at Comcast rather than taking the high road and using that $18,000 to help those young women who benefit from her organization's services.

The tug-of-war between corporate philanthropists and their non-profit beneficiaries has a long history of struggles and redefinitions. When your humble reporter was a non-profit fundraiser back in the 1980s, for example, such for-pofit/non-profit partnerships were tagged with the rather explicit moniker of "cause-related marketing", a term that's now out of favor in these more-delicate days.

Also, the question as to whether a non-profit should accept money that comes encumbered by less than perfectly pure intentions and from sources with which the recipient might not fully agree has a long history. George Bernard Shaw, for example, wrote an entire play about it: Major Barbara, which questions funding sources for the Major's organization, the Salvation Army.

As Shaw wrote in a preface to his comedy, "Some [critics] thought that the [Salvation] Army would not have taken money from a distiller and a cannon founder: others thought it should not have taken it... On the first point the reply of the Army itself was prompt and conclusive. As one of its officers said, they would take money from the devil himself and be only too glad to get it out of his hands and into God's."

Kipp and Mozur both embarrassed themselves: he for his belief that his company's contribution – ostensibly given to support a good cause – should also buy only positive comments from those it supported, and she for not realizing that Comcast's money, once transferred to her organization, was transformed into untainted fuel for the good works she claims as Reel Grrls' mission.

Egos are a bee-atch, eh? I think Shaw wrote that in Misalliance, but I could be wrong. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart
Mega-costly gas 'n' 'leccy totting-up tech not worth it - Tory MP
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.