Minnesota Sen. Al Franken is calling out his background as a TV writer and performer to unleash a new, no-holds-barred warning about the impact of Comcast’s deal for NBC Universal and the Net Neutrality debate.
Franken points to what happened on network TV after financial syndication rules were dropped to suggest that the two new fights could potentially change the dynamics of the web.
Calling Net Neutrality “the First Amendment issue of our time,” Franken, in a speech to the Netroots Nation conference Sunday in Las Vegas, said that the issues threaten to rewrite basic rules of the internet.
“Imagine if what is happening with television, where an independent producer can’t get a show on the air unless a network owns a piece of it, were to happen with the internet,” he said. “There would be no next YouTube or Twitter. There would only be what the R&D departments at the few megaconglomerates could invent and profit from.”
Franken called the Comcast-NBCU deal, “the first domino” in creating mega conglomerates.
“If Comcast merges with NBC, how long do you think it will take for Verizon and AT&T to start looking at looking at CBS-Viacom and ABC-Disney,” said the Democratic senator and former "Saturday Night Live" writer and actor.
“If [the Supreme Court’s] Citizens United [campaign finance decision] is allowed to stand, how long do you think it will be for these monoliths to buy enough elections for the companies so they effectively have veto power over anything Congress tries to do to regulate them?
“If no one stops them. How long do you think it will take before four or five megacorporations effectively control the flow of information in America, not only on television but online?”
Franken, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had earlier urged Congress to act on Net Neutrality and to impose conditions on Comcast-NBCU but in the weekend speech he was far more detailed.
“If we don’t protect Net Neutrality now, how long do you think it will take before Comcast-NBC Universal, or Verizon-CBS Viacom or AT&T-ABC-DirecTV or BP-Haliburton-Walmart-Fox-Domino’s-Pizza start favoring its content over everyone else’s?” he asked.
Franken couldn't resist a political jab in there, either:
“How long do you think it will take before the Fox News web site loads five times faster than DailyKos?"
Franken called on the government to reject the Comcast-NBCU deal — or to impose strict conditions on it.