February 26, 2014
Comcast officially opened its Harrisburg area call center Tuesday in Susquehanna Township, with Gov. Tom Corbett on hand to help cut the ribbon on the center at 2801 Valley Road. "We're investing in the people of Pennsylvania," Corbett said. "This is truly an investment in the people of Pennsylvania."
Corbett said companies like Comcast are "the engines of the economy," saying Comcast is creating good jobs with full benefits, including health care. The decision to locate the call center in Susquehanna Township was announced in March 2013, and the center has been operating in the former Earthlink building since last summer. Comcast officials, however, decided to wait until extensive renovations to the building were completed to hold the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The 110,000-square-foot facility has room for 750 employees. Currently, more than 500 people work there - 425 of the positions are new, officials said - and the company anticipates filling 100 additional jobs by the end of the year. Most of the employees deal with customers over the telephone, handling complaints and providing support for Comcast residential products and services. They take calls from the company's Northeast Division, which includes nearly eight million customers in 14 states from Maine through Virginia and the District of Columbia.
The company has invested about $12 million in the call center, which is expected to handle more than 4 million calls this year. "This is a a good day... this doesn't happen everyday," Mark Reilly, a vice president with Comcast said. "This building will house more than 700 employees. It will take a lot of people to help make that happen." Governor Corbett toured the new call center which also includes an exercise center, cafeteria and training and meeting facilities. The employees at the center are from seven different counties including Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry, Lebanon, Adams, York and Lancaster.
Comcast has more than 12,000 employees in Pennsylvania. People interested in working at at the call center can apply for positions on the website at jobs.comcast.com/job-opportunities/call-center. This is the company's sixth call center in Pennsylvania. Comcast has made several major announcements in the last several weeks. Earlier this month it was announced that Comcast and Time Warner Cable plan to merge. Comcast recently announced a deal with Netflix where Netflix will deliver its movies and TV programs to Comcast's broadband network giving viewers faster streaming speeds for watching movies and TV programs. Last month Comcast announced it will be building the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, a 1,121-foot-tall high-rise that will be built on Arch Street between 18th and 19th Streets in Philadelphia. pennlive.com
The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is planning to put forth a proposal on media-ownership rules that would make it harder for broadcast companies to control two TV stations in the same local market by using a single advertising sales staff, according to people familiar with the matter. The five-member commission is expected to vote next month on a long-awaited order, which FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is likely to make public in the coming weeks.
Under current rules, broadcasters typically are banned from owning two full-power TV stations in the same local market. But some companies have skirted that restriction by using agreements that allow them to control programming and ad sales at a second station through agreements with the owner. Consolidation in the broadcast industry in recent years has resulted in the proliferation of companies that outsource the management of their stations, sometimes called sidecars.
One type of arrangement known as a joint sales agreement allows one station to sell advertising on behalf of another, while charging it for the service. As part of the commission's regular review of its media ownership rules, Mr. Wheeler's order would treat broadcasters as the owners of any station for which they handle more than 15% of the advertising sales. If the five-member commission approves the order, many larger broadcasters, such as Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., could be forced to unwind the agreements that don't meet these requirements within two years or face a potential violation of the FCC's media ownership rules. Individual companies could also apply for a waiver, which would have a high threshold for approval.
An official for Sinclair said the company couldn't comment on the potential rule changes without knowing more details about the proposal. But the company broadly defended the use of joint sales agreements. "Ample evidence exists of benefits from joint station operations and little or no credible evidence has been presented of any harm resulting from such relationships," the official said in an email. Under FCC procedures, the commission will vote on Mr. Wheeler's order, which, if approved, would take effect as soon as it is published in the Federal Register. The commission also plans to seek more information on arrangements that allow separate stations to share administrative and newsgathering resources, with an eye toward encouraging diversity and competition among local TV news and programming.
Opponents of media consolidation including the advocacy group Free Press have urged the FCC to step up its scrutiny of sidecar arrangements, saying that they limit the number of voices in a local market. The FCC years ago took similar action for radio stations. The Justice Department's Antitrust Division, in comments to the FCC on Friday, urged the commission to make JSAs count as common ownership, or make them "attributable" to the larger broadcaster. "Given the extensive control over pricing decisions inherent in JSAs, the department has previously explained that those agreements should be considered attributable, and maintains that position today in light of its continued experience in the industry," the DOJ's filing states.
The order won't propose relaxing a ban on one company owning both a TV station and major newspaper in the same local market. Former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski had proposed relaxing that ban at the urging of the broadcast and newspaper industries, but Mr. Wheeler withdrew that proposal. On programming and newsgathering, the commission's action will open the door for further action down the road. Free Press policy director Matt Wood said his organization's main concern is when organizations use sidecar arrangements to reduce the resources devoted to local news and programming. He called the attribution of joint sales agreements a good first step but said that without further scrutiny, broadcasters would find ways around the new rule. "We hope it increases diversity for broadcasting and also stops what we think are clear abuses and violations of the commission's ownership rules," Mr. Wood said.
But broadcasters are likely to push back strongly against any attempt to dial back JSAs. Marci Burdick, senior vice president of Schurz Communications Inc., which owns 10 TV stations in six markets, said the change would result in less diversity in news coverage, and fewer newscasts for local viewers. Schurz currently takes part in three JSA's, which Ms. Burdick said support, among other things, a Spanish-language newscast in Wichita, Kansas, and local newscasts in Springfield, Mo., and August, Ga. Without such agreements, she said the stations involved would have to scale back their investments in local news. "There's demonstrable proof that the agreements have preserved newscasts and provided better vehicles for local advertisers," Ms. Burdick said. "The commission's rules don't take into effect the competitive impact the changing of the world has had on small market broadcasters." Wall Street Journal
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