Local business owners miffed after appearing in bizarre Comcast-sponsored Detroit doc

Feb 23, 2015 at 10:58 am

With his Detroit Bus Co., Andy Didorosi is used to being somewhat of a media darling, earning numerous mentions in local and national outlets. But a brief, four-second long appearance in a Comcast-sponsored Detroit doc has him up in arms.

The video, titled Detroit: Another Chance, aired at 5 p.m. on Sunday on WXYZ Channel 7, with footage of Didorosi and his Detroit Bus Company appearing onscreen during a segment championing Dan Gilbert's contributions to the city. Didorosi immediately took to Facebook to voice his displeasure with his business appearing in the doc without his knowledge:

Just a minute ago, I started getting phone calls and texts that I was on TV. Having no idea what it was about, I searched the title, "Detroit Another Chance" and found the production company uploaded a copy of it to YouTube a month ago. Without my permission, I now appear in a bullshit Comcast-powered shitfest of fake sunshine Detroit boosterism that claims our existence as a company is due to the generosity and genius of Quicken Loans et cetera rather than hard work and investment in our own city. I did not choose to endorse a shitty, evil, manipulative company like Comcast that actively works to take our information rights away and I won't abide by them lifting our image for their gain. I'm mad as hell and pursuing this to the furthest extent the law will take me.

We called up Didorosi for an elaboration, who described the video as "one big wank-fest for Comcast." He says it appears the production company "lifted" footage from a variety of sources, including a piece on the Detroit Bus Co. shot for Whole Foods' online magazine Dark Rye nearly two-and-a-half years ago.

The new video was produced by Southfield's Yellow Flag Productions, a subsidiary of sports video production company State Champs! Network, and billed as "presented by Michigan Edge and Comcast."

Didorosi describes Dark Rye's original piece as "high quality." But while he and the Detroit Bus Co. are thanked in the credits for Yellow Flag's doc, he doesn't think that gives Yellow Flag the right to use the footage.  

The video — ostensibly a heavy-handed ode to Detroit's gentrification — features the usual names people think of when the media talks about "Detroit's rebirth": Dan Gilbert, Mike Ilitch, Midtown Detroit, Slow's BBQ. As a voiceover praises Detroit's entrepreneurial spirit and all the "new start-up shops opening in the city," footage of a scrappy little company you may or may not have heard of called Shinola is shown.

According to the video, everything is hunky-dory in New Detroit. "The national view of Detroit was very, very negative," says Sandy Baruah, Detroit Regional Chamber President in a segment. "But now, there's really no national news in a negative story about Detroit. The national news is the positive that's happening in Detroit, and Detroit is, frankly, the bright, shiny object right now. The amount of capital that is circling this city, the amount of national interest — frankly, international interest — in the renaissance happening in Detroit gives Detroit and Detroiters a unique moment in time to really capitalize on the world's attention."

Likewise, Detroit's new Red Wings arena isn't just an ordinary sport arena. "The plans that we've seen, put in front of us from the Ilitch family, the dedication to downtown, the development of that area, it'll be one of the greatest spectacles in the United States," says Tom Leyden, WXYZ sports director in another segment. "It's not just an arena. It's an entire community where people can come each and every time there's a game played there, they're going to have a great time." 

Then there's a shot of hundreds of white people waiting in the cold for HopCat's "Crack Fries" in the former Cass Corridor — possibly one of the more unintentionally surreal images we've seen in a while.

But Didorosi's beef isn't necessarily with the content of the video. In his view, it's not a doc of Detroit — it's an ad for Comcast. "Editorial aside, I would never have vouched to be in a Comcast ad," he says. 

Derek Weaver of the Grand River Creative Corridor, which has commissioned many murals that are featured in the video, echoed Didorosi's sentiments on Facebook. "Public art, including the public art on Andy's buses, are for the public to enjoy free of charge," Weaver told us. "People are welcome to take pictures, make prints, or even make a T-shirt for themselves. However, once the pictures or video are distributed, sold, or multiplied for for-profit use it requires the artist's and property owner's consent. That's the Michigan public art law."

Weaver notes that in his time with the GRCC, corporations like Apple, Ford, and Elle have approached him to ask permission to feature the GRCC and its murals.

And this is where things get murky. It's possible Dark Rye owns the footage of Didorosi and handed it over to Yellow Flag. Emails to both Yellow Flag and Dark Rye went unanswered by the time this blog post went online.

There's certainly no love lost for Comcast, who recently narrowly beat out Monsanto as the most hated company of America. (It's also interesting that Comcast even bothered with a Detroit video since they're on their way out of the Michigan market anyway.)

"Comcast's evilness aside, any big company — even good ones — need to ask permission of the little guys who appear in their adverts," Didorosi says. "We have to have the ability to choose what we're appearing in. I think they do this because they think that no one will say anything, they think we'll be so happy to appear in their advert. But that's not the case." 

Watch the video below — if you dare: