Comcast-NBCU: Democratic Senators Raise More Concerns With FCC

Claire McCaskill, Jeff Merkley submit letters urging caution

Last Updated: January 10, 2011 @ 10:28 AM

As the blockbuster Comcast-NBU merger inches closer to approval, a pair of Democratic senators submitted letters to the FCC on Friday, urging regulators to take a closer look at the deal.

The senators — Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) and Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) — fired off separate letters to FCC Chairman Genachowski.

“I have strong concerns regarding the viability of independent programming on Comcast platforms, should this merger be consummated,” McCaskill wrote. “Some stakeholders suggest that Comcast [has] a history of placing independent and unaffiliated programming on premium tiers while placing content that it owns on more widely-distributed basic cable tiers."

McCaskill continued: "I am also concerned that they may become more commonplace following the merger, as Comcast will have even greater programming interests than it does today, including several top-rated national cable networks and a major movie and television studio.”

In addition to general concerns about rising cable rates and net neutrality, Merkley is concerned that some of Oregon’s rural customers — often penalized by large cable companies — may be charged even more. Merkley wrote: "Is there a way to address this issue in the merger or would the merger make this situation worse by decreasing competition?"

Merkley is also miffed that non-Comcast customers won’t be able to see the Portland Trail Blazers games.

Read Merkley’s entire letter to the FCC via the Oregonian.