Included in Comcast’s promises regarding its acquisition of NBC is a little-noticed plan that may stimulate the growth of nonprofit news organizations. Comcast is pledging to establish partnerships between news nonprofits and at least five of the 10 NBC television stations that are owned by NBC Universal. The partnerships will be modeled on an existing relationship between KNSD, the NBC-owned station in San Diego, and voiceofsandiego.org, an innovative news organization that relies on donations from foundations, corporations and readers.
Comcast’s embrace of what it calls “hyperlocalism” may be an advantage to nonprofits that are gathering news in metropolitan areas. Independent newsrooms like voiceofsandiego.org have sprung up in several cities, and in some cases they have filled gaps left by downsized newspaper newsrooms.
The partnership plan was outlined in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission on Dec. 23, the same day that Julius Genachowski, the commission chairman, indicated that he would support the combination of Comcast and NBC Universal as long as a number of conditions were attached.
The F.C.C. is expected to approve the takeover in January. In the letter, Comcast also agreed to provide $10-a-month broadband Internet access in some low-income areas.
Comcast had already pledged to preserve the news and public affairs programming on the NBC stations, and to increase the output of such programming by 1,000 hours a year, mostly through online and on-demand extensions. The commitment about the news nonprofits, however, is new. Analysts say commitments like these are intended to smooth the way to approval for such a deal. In San Diego, KNSD and voiceofsandiego.org have been sharing content, fact-checking politicians and promoting each other’s Web sites.
“Some of our bigger investigative pieces have a lot more impact when we are able to pair them with a broadcast version,” said Scott Lewis, the chief executive of voiceofsandiego.org. KNSD pays the nonprofit a monthly fee. “It’s been a huge deal,” Mr. Lewis said.
In the letter to the F.C.C., Comcast said the KNSD model “can and should be expanded.” It did not identify where it would set up partnerships, but along with San Diego, NBC operates stations in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, Miami, San Jose, Calif., Dallas-Fort Worth, Washington and West Hartford, Conn.
“Cooperative arrangements such as this advance the commission’s interest in ensuring that all Americans have access to vibrant, diverse sources of news and information as well as promoting the positive effects of the digital revolution on news-gathering, journalism and information dissemination,” the company stated in the letter. It said it would keep the arrangements with the nonprofits in place for at least three years.