The Writers Guild, both East and West, Consumer’s Union, Common Cause and even the National Organization for Women on Thursday are among those who are banding together to oppose the $30 billion Comcast-NBC Universal deal.
In an open letter sent Thursday to the White House and to members of the Senate and House committees which will review the deal, the groups claim that the merger “will have a devastating effect on the media marketplace.”
The 25 groups that signed the letters also included the American Cable Association, which represents smaller cable system operators; the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association, which represents DirecTV and DishNetwork; the Consumer Federation of America; Parents Television Council; and the Communications Workers of America.
The letter went out a day after it became known that the Justice Department rather than the Federal Trade Commission will conduct the anti-trust review of the deal, a first step in the federal anti-trust review process. The Federal Communications Commission will examine whether the deal is in the public interest.
Officials of some of the groups signing the letters said today their intention was to both to show Congress the broad range of concern about the deal and to focus Congress’ attention on the potential issues raised.
The deal, the letter warns, “will result in less competition, higher consumer costs and fewer content choices … It also will give one company unprecedented control over innovative new media that offer news, information, entertainment and cultural programming through emerging technologies.”
It also warns that “control of NBCU programming also would give Comcast the opportunity to prioritize its own online video products over those of its competitors – or sharply reduce online video distribution altogether – pushing independent producers out of the picture.”
“We are calling on Congressional committees to exercise their oversight authority to make sure the FCC and DOJ understand that this is a very high priority matter,” said Andy Schwartzman, executive director of the Media Access Project, in an e-mail.
Liz Rose, communications director for Free Press, said in an interview the range of groups signing the letter, from women’s groups to unions, cable rivals to consumer groups was intended to raise attention.
Sena Fitzmaurice, a Comcast spokeperson, defended the deal.
“Viewed objectively, the GE/Comcast NBCU transaction is pro-consumer and strongly in the public interest, and we look forward to making that case to Congress, the Justice Department, and the FCC," she told TheWrap.
"There is absolutely no evidence that this proposed transaction would produce any of the adverse effects these groups claim the deal would cause. In fact, existing law already prohibits any discrimination by Comcast against other providers regarding programming we own and would preclude Comcast from “prioritizing” NBCU channels. Further, the emerging online video market is extraordinarily competitive, with sites like YouTube, Netflix, iTunes and dozens of others already offering video from a wide range of content providers, large and small.”