Comcast pulls Reel Grrls funding after critical tweet, then backpedals

I think the lesson here is: Don’t try to silence a youth media non-profit. It’s just bad PR. But Comcast went ahead and tried it anyway this week, threatening to pull funding for the Central District’s own Reel Grrls, located next door to Central Cinema (see our previous profile of the organization).

The reason? A tweet:

After posting this tweet, which is clearly relevant to an organization fighting for an equal and fair media, they received this poorly thought-out email from a Comcast communications employee (Malory Graham is the Executive Director of Reel Grrls):

Malory: Please read the Tweet above. Given the fact that Comcast has been a major supporter of Reel Grrls for several years now, I am frankly shocked that your organization is slamming us on Twitter. This is not the first time either. I’ve seen at least one other negative Tweet about Comcast. I cannot in good conscience continue to provide you with funding—especially when there are so many other deserving nonprofits in town.

I respect your position on freedom of the press. However, I hope you can respect that this Tweet has put me in an indefensible position with my bosses. I cannot continue to ask them to approve funding for Reel Grrls, knowing that the digital footprint your organization has created about Comcast is a negative one.

I wish you and your organization the best. I believe strongly in the mission of Reel Grrls and the work that you do. I am truly sorry that Comcast’s partnership with Reel Grrls had to end on such a sour note.


Steve Kipp│VP of Communications

Comcast Cable │Washington Region

News of Mr. Kipp’s email made its way to Cecelia Kang at the Washington Post, and Comcast backpedaled and restored the funding:

After media inquiries, Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice said Thursday afternoon in a statement that Comcast had made a mistake.

“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,” Fitzmaurice said. “This is not the way Comcast behaves toward its nonprofit partners.”

In a statement, Reel Grrls says it is happy it is not company policy to treat nonprofits this way, and hopes this can be a lesson:

Reel Grrls was thrilled to receive an apology from Comcast for their decision to pull funding from our girls summer camp program in response to a tweet we sent out criticizing a recent hiring decision. We are extremely heartened by their assurance that punitive measures in response to the exchange of ideas are not in line with their corporate policy. We hope to continue discussions with them to determine ways to work together again following the breach of trust their initial actions caused. We are open to the possibility of continued partnership that encourages the free exchange of ideas and look forward to talking to them about our shared interest and commitment to supporting Seattle’s youth. 

Regardless of the source of our funding, we will continue our commitment and our efforts to speak out in support for media reform and media justice issues. We are pleased that the public debate on this issue has caused Comcast to reconsider this decision and hope to continue the discussion about how we can best ensure that corporations do not play a role in stifling free expression or limiting American’s access to information.

With funding back in place, the organization’s lineup of summer camps will go on. Visit the organization’s website to register online or learn more about the programs.

Oh, by the way. A whole group of girls just learned how to make documentaries this spring at a Reel Grrls camp. If only there were some story for them to tell, like maybe one of David vs Goliath scale where a group of girls armed only with video cameras takes on a media giant…

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