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Comcast’s free cable coverage among bigger donations to GOP event

SHARE Comcast’s free cable coverage among bigger donations to GOP event

WASHINGTON — The political conventions are just days away, so it's the season of giving. And cable provider Comcast has delivered one of the bigger gifts to Republicans — free TV coverage of the GOP event to as many as 65 million American homes.

The Philadelphia-based cable provider, the nation's third largest, will provide three hours of live convention coverage each night on a special channel on its systems — and share the satellite signal with its competitors.

So far, eight major cable systems, including Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, AT&T and Cablevision, have agreed to pick up the coverage on their systems.

Republicans are hailing Comcast's arrangement as a major coup for getting their message out in an era in which the major networks' coverage of the quadrennial conventions is dwindling.

"Our goal from the start in planning the convention is to seek as many avenues of communication for our nominee, Governor Bush, as we possibly can and that includes traditional media outlets as well as newer possibilities like direct cable, high-definition television and the Internet," said Tim Fitzpatrick, a Republican convention spokesman.

Comcast's contribution is just one of many free services that both parties and their convention host committees are receiving from companies eager to sow good will.

AT&T is providing free cellular phones for the Republicans, General Motors is providing 400 free cars to each party's convention and Microsoft is providing free software, party officials said.

Many of the donors will be given the promotional title "official convention provider" — putting their coporate name, logo and wares front and center before an audience of state and federal powerbrokers who attend the conventions.

"What you want to do is cement a relationship, and these are brilliant opportunities for making them feel warm and fuzzy about the time you were in Philadelphia, or the time you were in Los Angeles," said Larry Makinson, of the Center for Responsive Politics, which studies political donations.

"Nothing makes an impression on a politician like beaming their visage and wisdom free of charge to millions of American households," he added.

Comcast owns the convention center where the GOP event is being held in Philadelphia and its president, Brian L. Roberts, is a co-chairman of the host committee helping to stage the convention. It has donated more than $1 million in services to the GOP event.

The convention center has state-of-the-art television facilities, and that made the arrangement a natural, Comcast executive Joe Waz said.

"We said this is part of our commitment as a host committee member, to produce coverage of that convention that everyone could share," Waz said.

Industry officials said Friday the Democrats are trying to arrange a similar cable TV coverage deal for their convention next month in Los Angeles.

In addition to the TV coverage and satellite distribution, Comcast held a huge kickoff party on Friday — complete with food and entertainment— for Republican convention volunteers.

Comcast systems already feature a local access information and news channel, and the GOP convention will be piped into that each night.

Lynn Doyle, a journalist who hosts a show on the Comcast information channel, will anchor the nightly coverage and will be helped by a team that includes:

—Suzi DeFrancis, who worked for Republican television operation known as GOP-TV.

—Bill Palatucci, who worked for former President Bush's campaign in 1988 and 1992.

—Lisa Robertson, of the cable TV shopping channel QVC.