Christian ministers went to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Wednesday to appeal to Congressional members about Comcast Corporation's recent actions to decrease or cease distribution of The Word Network, the largest African-American religious network in the world that was reaching 3 billion people around the globe. On Nov. 11, 2016, Comcast executives sent a two-sentence letter to The Word Network, stating it will no longer offer the channel to millions of subscribers on 456 Comcast systems.
According to The Word's website, its program are seen in more than 200 Countries reaching viewers in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas, with nearly 93 million homes in the United States alone.
Based on the letter, The Word Network was slated to stop airing yesterday in U.S. communities, such as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Baltimore, Houston, San Francisco, Denver, Boston and Minneapolis-St. Paul, reports Market Watch.
To induce Comcast to abandon this plan, the ministers met with nearly a dozen Congressional leaders and regulatory officials to voice concerns, reports Yahoo Finance.
"This situation is unlike any other Comcast dispute that has ever been brought to Congress because it is not about money," said Kevin Adell, founder and CEO of The Word Network. "The Word Network makes its programming available to Comcast and other cable providers at no cost, even though our network has a large and devoted audience."
Comcast is following the form not the substance of the conditions of the merger deal with NBC Universal, stated Yahoo. The Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed by NAACP, National Urban League and the National Action Network, reportedly provided for more African American programming, not less.
The Word Network representatives reportedly are reviewing legal options with the FCC, including looking at the 28 full power TV stations, reviewing their licenses for lack of candor and being socially responsible to the African-American community. Also under review will be retransmission agreements to affiliates.
"We will reach out to the municipalities where they have a charter to disclose our findings of their treatment to the African-American community and work with the local church groups in these communities to revoke their charters if necessary," stated Rev. Al Sharpton last week in defense of The Word Network.
On Jan. 4, 2017, Sharpton, founder of National Action Network, sent an open letter to Comcast expressing concern that the company is undermining previous commitments made by the company to increase its roster of diverse programmers, while also strengthening existing diverse programmers.
"It seems to me that removal of programming targeted to the African-American community is the exact opposite of extension of such programming," wrote Sharpton.
He said many people rely on The Word Network for "daily religious and spiritual edification."
Sharpton said a letter from Jennifer Gaiski, SVP of Comcast Content Acquisition, to notify The Word Network of the change "gave no explanation for this surprising move and has caused deep concern within the African American community."
In a separate development Wednesday, former president and CEO of the NAACP, Ben Jealous sent a letter to Comcast's David Cohen to reiterate Sharpton's concerns. Jealous was a signatory to the 2010 Memorandum of Understanding in which Comcast pledged to increase diversity in the programming it carries. In his letter, Jealous states, "[T]he largest African-American religious network in the world will be removed from over 7 million Comcast subscribers. It seems to me that this undoing violates the 2010 Memorandum of Understanding and runs contrary to the commitment of increased African-American programming."
Citing these type of issues during their meetings, the ministers urged Members of Congress to act and demand answers from the cable giant about its treatment of The Word Network.
"The Word Network is a fixture in the lives of many members' constituencies," said Adell. "If allowed to proceed with this cruel and unwarranted plan, Comcast will be dealing a devastating blow to the African-American community."
The Word Network airs programming from religious leaders, such as Bishop T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, Bishop Paul Morton, Joseph Prince, George Bloomer and Dorinda Clark-Cole. It was launched in 2000, and is headquartered in Southfield, Mich.
The Word Network is the undisputed source for urban ministries and gospel music, broadcasting national and international ministries, gospel music, interview shows, religious conventions, special events and produces original content within their television studio.
Some original programming includes, but not limited to, Rejoice in the WORD with Bishop George Bloomer, The Empowerment Encounter, Dr. Medina Pullings LIVE with Dr. Medina Pullings, The Threshing Floor with Dr. Juanita Bynum, Let the Healing Begin with Bishop Greg Davis, and The Gospel According to Dorinda with Dr. Dorinda Clark-Cole.
The Word Network offers family-friendly programming is typically available in the United States through DirecTV, Comcast, AT&T U-verse, Time Warner Cable, Bright House, Cox, and a host of other cable operators.