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Comcast-NBCU Merger Needs More Hearings, Group Says

In letters to Congress, coalition cites “new opposition” to deal

comcast nbc logosA coalition of groups opposed to the Comcast-NBCU deal — among them the Writers Guild of America East and West — have called on Congress to schedule additional hearings on the deal.

The Coalition for Competition in Media said Thursday new developments warrant the hearings. The group cited the the 33,000 filings received by the FCC, 94% of them against the combination.

The group made its remarks in letters sent Thursday to the chairman and ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Energy & Commerce Committee as well as to legislators who head the committee’s telecom panels.

“The recent emergence of new opposition and the new in-depth analysis they have been brought forward adds multiple new dimensions to the discussion,” said the letters. “The emergence of these opponents — many of whom will be forced to compete directly against a more powerful, vertically-integrated Comcast in the distribution, programming and online marketplaces — combined with the intellectual rigor of their arguments and analyses, demonstrates the enormous threat that this merger poses to consumers and competition.”

Many of the new opponents weren’t heard at the first Congressional hearings on the deal that were held early this year, the letters said.

“As many of these entities did not participate in prior hearings, and much of their analysis had not yet been performed, there is a great deal of new material that would inform the Committee’s oversight role,” said the letters.

“In considering this request, we ask you to note that the importance of thorough committee review is magnified by the unquestioned precedent that will be established …  There can be little doubt that the other large distributors that compete with Comcast … may soon discover that they are at a competitive disadvantage. … It may not be long before one or both of these companies, in order to level the playing field, decide to purchase one of the few remaining large content providers.”

Besides the WGA, other members of the coalition include Bloomberg, WealthTV, Common Cause, Free Press, the Sports Fan Alliance, the Media Access Project, Public Knowledge, the National Organization for Women, the Parents Television Council, the Latino Business Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles and NCAAOM.

Comcast’s $60 billion deal for NBCU is currently under review by the Justice Department for its anti-trust implications and by the Federal Communications Commission for its public interest implications.

In a statement, Comcast questioned the need for additional hearings.

“There have already been an unprecedented number of public hearings on this transaction, six Congressional hearings, an FCC public forum, and one of the longest public comment periods in commission history,” said the statement.

“Most of these opponents have opposed the transaction since the day it was announced over nine months ago and are only seeking to further delay the review process.  Congress, the FCC and DOJ should reject the delaying tactics of this group driven by a few special business interests, and the review process should continue without interruption.  We continue to believe this transaction will close by year-end.”