Inquirer Celebrates Comcast’s Birthday

Happy 50th, corporate overlords!

November 13 will mark the day that, 50 years ago, a humble, homegrown Ralph Roberts purchased a TV subscription system in small-town Mississippi for $250,000 and began a commercial journey that culminated with an eerily monolithic skyscraper in Philadelphia and lots and lots of tax breaks.

To mark the occasion, the Inquirer has written one of the most flattering pieces on Comcast I can imagine the company has garnered, sending its communications personnel into fits of orgasmic professional joy for having successfully steered reporter Bob Fernandez away from discussing the overbearing power that the company wields over our souls or the fact that everyone even kind of in the know is aware that Executive VP David L. Cohen is the one who quite literally runs Philadelphia.

Instead, Fernandez gives short other-side shrift to the savvy but understated Yeshiva University law professor and Comcast expert Susan Crawford.

“They are a beautifully managed company. They are extraordinarily adept at engaging all levels of government,” Crawford said. “There is President Obama golfing with Brian Roberts in Martha’s Vineyard. That’s pretty good. Smooth.”

Some of us would just come out and call this regulatory capture, but “smooth” offers a certain subtlety, I suppose.

Not once mentioned in the piece: The millions in grants and tax breaks received as part of the Keystone Opportunity Zone, its successful fight against the paid sick leave bill or its position against net neutrality.

Now, this is just conjecture, but I’m guessing one of two things: Either Fernandez was so star-struck by the presence of such charismatic fellows as the patricians of the Roberts dynasty and so eager to preserve future ties with them that he was successfully disarmed, or this was some tit-for-tat engineered by Cohen who tipped him off to something big in return for a flattering portrait of a company with a lot of really gross dirty laundry. And yes, those deals are struck in journalism all the time.

It’s things like this that sometimes inspire apathy at the idea of a dead Inquirer and why even some of the most respected journalists I know don’t even bother to subscribe. []

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