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Comcast, NBCU, GE Defend Their $30B Deal in FCC Filing

Insist some objections are attempts to air unrelated grievances and others are based on unreasonable fears

Comcast, GE and NBC Universal are defending their $30 billion deal in a new filing with the Federal Communications Commission, saying some objections to it are attempts to air unrelated grievances and others are based on unreasonable fears.

Critics have “shut their eyes” to the deal’s benefits, the filing said.

“The fourth ranked NBC Television Network is especially challenged, and while GE has other priorities for its investment capital, Comcast has stepped up with meaningful commitments to preserve and enhance free over the air broadcasting,” according to the filing.

“Despite the self-serving claims of various competitors and the predictable responses from certain familiar critics, this transaction will not diminish competition in any relevant market. Bringing together Comcast and NBCU will accelerate investment and innovation, promote competitions and benefit consumers.

“This transaction also will benefit diversity, localism, employment and the nation’s economy."

The filing comes as the companies, critics of the deal and its backers offer replies to initial comments on the deal made to the FCC. Wednesday was the day for responses. Responses to the replies are due Aug. 5.

Consumer groups, the American Cable Association and some Comcast and NBCU competitors including AOL, EchoStar (Dish Network), Bloomberg L.P. and DirecTV have either called for the deal to be outright rejected by the FCC or for the agency to put major conditions on it.

The Writers Guild of America West, in its own filing Wednesday, reiterated some of the same complaints, saying it remained “extremely concerned” about the deal’s impact on creators and consumers. It pointed especially to questions about its impact on the amount of independent content on NBCU and Comcast and, pointing to the recent $269 million Celador International verdict against Disney,  on how the content would be valued.

It said while Comcast and NBCU have recently announced agreement with the Independent Film & Television Alliance to provide independent producers a formal opportunity to pitch programs is “encouraging,” that access could turn out to be “pro forma.”

“The FCC should not view this agreement as eliminating the concern over independent production and program source diversity of Comcast owned channels," said the WGAW in urging the FCC to require more independent programming..

“The agreement does not provide any guarantee than any amount of independently produced programming will be aired on these channels,” said WGAW in urging the FCC to require more independent programming. “The FCC has the opportunity to act in the public interest by requiring Comcast to air programming from diverse sources on the vast array of network and cable properties it will own. Approval of the merger should be conditioned upon specific, enforceable requirements that Comcast-NBCU include independent programming in its broadcast and cable network schedules.”

The WGAW said the Celador verdict also demonstrated the potential risks to content creators of monopoly power and urged the FCC to require fair valuation of content.

Comcast, GE and NBCU argued against some of the conditions sought by critics. They said calls by Public Citizen and others to impose net neutrality requirements and assure web programmers that internet consumers will have full access to their content are out of place.

“There is nothing about the facts of the proposed transaction that could possibly justify the imposition of special ‘net neutrality’ conditions on the parties,” said the filing.

It also argues that the combination of NBCU and Comcast’s assets will provide a real competitor to Disney’s ESPN.