Dec 7, 2021 - Economy

WarnerMedia-Discovery merger faces questions over Latino programming

US Rep. Joaquin Castro listens during a House Intelligence Committee impeachment inquiry hearing.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas). Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) want the Justice Department to review closely a proposed merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery over concerns it could limit programming and opportunities for Latino creators.

Why it matters: Castro has been leading a campaign to pressure media companies to hire more diverse staff and produce more programming with people of color. Media mergers could make that more challenging.

Details: Castro and Warren wrote a letter Monday, along with Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), to express serious concerns over WarnerMedia’s proposed $43 billion merger with Discovery.

  • The joint venture would house WarnerMedia’s premium entertainment, sports and news assets with Discovery's nonfiction and international entertainment and sports businesses.
  • But the four Democrats say the merger would "lessen competition in the media and entertainment industry."

What they're saying: "Additional consolidation is likely to eliminate competition for these workers and reduce the number of employment opportunities for Hispanic individuals looking to enter the industry," the letter said.

  • "We also respectfully urge the Department to thoroughly examine whether the proposed combination of Discovery and WarnerMedia will reduce the amount of diverse and inclusive media and entertainment content available to consumers."

WarnerMedia and Discovery have not responded to emails from Axios seeking comment.

The intrigue: Warren has questioned previous media mergers over antitrust concerns and fears they would reduce media employees. She questioned the CBS-Viacom and Disney-Fox mergers.

  • Castro didn’t weigh into those mergers and both happened before he started pressing media companies on their lack of Latino representation.
  • “For far too long, Hollywood studios have excluded Latinos from opportunities in the industry, perpetuating dangerous stereotypes and inaccurate portrayals," Castro said in a statement about the WarnerMedia-Discovery merger.
  • "I’m deeply concerned that the proposed merger between Discovery and WarnerMedia will lead to concentrated exclusion, harming consumers and workers — especially Latinos who are already the most underrepresented group."

Don't forget: Only 5% of lead actors in films and 2.9% in all new and returning television and streaming programs were Latino in 2020, according to a recent report by the research nonprofit firm Latino Donor Collaborative.

One fun fact: A 2020 WarnerMedia Equity and Inclusion report found that 11% of its workforce was Hispanic — a number unchanged since 2018. Around 58% of its workforce was white.

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