by Lindy West
on Thu, May 19, 2011 at 4:49 PM
There's some giant-corporation-on-adorable-nonprofit violence going on today, involving Seattle's very own Reel Grrls. Metafilter has a handy play-by-play (click through for all the links):
Just your classic corporation-meets-social-good, corporation-funds-social-good, corporation-dumps-social-good story. Cable giant Comcast meets ReelGrrls, a Seattle-based nonprofit dedicated to supporting young women in becoming filmmakers. Comcast funds ReelGrrls. Comcast buys NBC, giving their cable network (presumably cheaper) access to NBC's vast back catalog of content. FCC approves the union. FCC head Meredith Attwell Baker leaves and becomes head of Comcast. ReelGrrls tweets about her career move. Comcast yanks funding for ReelGrrls. ReelGrrls says, "OMG, you broke up with me over a tweet?"
Here's a video response by some of the Reel Grrls summer participants:
Reel Grrls's official response is after the jump, followed by Comcast's sheepish and abrupt capitulation.
Reel Grrls says:
As an organization that works in the media field, Reel Grrls has been following coverage of the recent hiring of former FCC commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker. Based on your interest in this and other media issues, I wanted to inform you about a recent punitive decision Comcast has made in reaction to our organization’s social media outreach on this issue. As a result of our organization expressing an opinion about the hiring on Twitter, Comcast has decided to pull funding from a local youth program they have supported for the last four years.
Our nonprofit organization, Reel Grrls, offers a media production summer camp for teenage girls that includes a wide variety of courses ranging from documentary filmmaking to video production to film animation (http://www.reelgrrls.org/programs/daycamp). Lessons taught by professional women filmmakers not only provide specific skills to these young women, but also offer the mentoring and support most critical during these developmental years.
Like many media organizations, we followed the news of the Comcast hiring closely and considered the important debate this issue presents on media policy and corporate influence over our political process. As an independent nonprofit focused on media issues, we chose to express our concerns with others interested in this issue in our community on Twitter.
As a result of this opinion being voiced, Comcast informed us via email (included below) that they would no longer be supporting our summer program for young women.
We were saddened that Comcast’s reaction to this debate over ideas was to punish local youth by defunding a program that offers young women in our community an opportunity to turn their summers into life changing experiences.
In a society that values free expression and earnest political debate, it is troubling that a corporation would expect that any organization they partner with would limit their publicly-expressed opinions to only those that are favorable to the corporation or risk crippling punitive measures. Comcast’s overreaction to a simple tweet is particularly disheartening because, until this event, they have been a strong philanthropic partner to our organization.
Reel Grrls hopes that Comcast will reconsider their decision making moving forward in partnerships with other members of the community and choose to support worthy community efforts and the free expression of political ideas in the future. We are not asking Comcast to restore our funding. We are simply asking that when faced with similar decisions in the future, they consider whether it is appropriate to expect to be beyond reproach by any who choose to work with them. Particularly given the increased power they gained over American’s access to information as a result of the recent NBC merger, we believe they have a special responsibility to avoid the stifling of free expression.
A copy of the email informing us that Comcast would be revoking support based on the opinions expressed by our organization is below. As you continue to cover the Comcast/Baker issue, I’d love to speak with you about our situation and the wider trends about corporate reach and free speech that the company’s reaction to our tweet speaks to.
Aaaaaaand Comcast responds:
“We are in the process of reaching out to ReelGrrls in Seattle and let them know the funding the organization has received from Comcast is not in jeopardy and we sincerely apologize for the unauthorized action of our employee. This is not the way Comcast behaves toward its nonprofit partners.”