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Obama's Comcast

According to press reports, Comcast announced on Saturday that it had assumed control of NBC Universal from General Electric.

The nation's largest cable and broadband provider now has a 51 percent ownership stake in one of the nation's top content producers.

Last week, federal regulators paved the way for the final deal. The Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission both approved the merger with conditions.

Immediately following the takeover, more than 20 groups, including Free Press, Media Access Project, Women in Media and News, and the Writers Guild of America East, filed a letter with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski vowing to "be vigorous watchdogs, monitoring this newly merged media giant, and consistent advocates for the public interest."

They asked the chairman to do the same and expressed concern that the merger would lead to more consolidation, fewer voices and fewer choices for the public.

"This deal is a win for Comcast, General Electric and NBC executives, and a devastating loss to everyone else, and to democracy itself," Free Press President Josh Silver says.

"As of today, Comcast has an Orwellian amount of control over your media experience and your wallet. By controlling both information and the ways people access that information - by cable, broadcast and the Internet - Comcast-NBC can and will block competition, stifle innovation and silence independent, opposing viewpoints.

"Comcast customers can expect to see their bills go up, as they foot the $30 billion tab. And even if you're not a Comcast customer, you're sure to end up paying more. Next, get ready for a merger wave, as other corporations seek out similar mega-deals to try to compete with Comcast-NBC. Putting too much media power in the hands of a single company is bad for the American people and for our democracy."

The Letter

Dear Chairman Genachowski:

We write to express our deep concern with the merger of Comcast and NBC-Universal announced on January 18, 2011.

A merger of this size and scope will have far-reaching effects on consumers, communities and our entire media system for years to come.

The Federal Communications Commission's mandate is to protect and foster the public interest, and we believe that the agency has failed to meet its mandate in the case of this merger.

While we applaud a number of the conditions placed on the merger, none of the conditions attached tip the balance of the scale in favor of the public interest.

We concur with FCC Commissioner Michael Copps that, at the end of the day, "many of the new commitments that have been added aim no higher than maintaining the status quo. The status quo is not serving the public interest."

Our media system already suffers as a result of years of runaway consolidation that diminished the diversity of voices on the air, gutted our nation's newsrooms, and harmed the public interest.

In recent years, during the Federal Communication Commission's ongoing review of media ownership rules, millions of Americans have written the FCC opposing further media consolidation and packed dozens of public hearings to speak out about the decline of media in their communities.

They are not alone. As a candidate, President Obama said, "The Commission has failed to further the goals of diversity in the media and promote localism, and as a result, it is in no position to justify allowing for increased consolidation of the market," and promised to "expand the diversity of voices in media."

The FCC's review of the proposed Comcast-NBC merger is the first test of that promise.

The Comcast-NBC merger is the new face of media consolidation.

As organizations representing hundreds of thousands of diverse, local citizens around the country, we are pledging today to be vigorous watchdogs, monitoring this newly merged media giant, and consistent advocates for the public interest. We ask you to make the same pledge.

The Comcast-NBC merger comes in the middle of your agency's ongoing review of media ownership laws. As you conduct that review, we call on you to conduct a more open, transparent and thorough process that truly engages the public.

The FCC's responsibility is to the public - it is not a deal broker, it is a federal regulator.

Nothing in the record of this proceeding supports a finding that the combination of Comcast and NBC would further the FCC's congressional mandate to promote diversity, localism and the public interest.

It is not enough to adopt Comcast's own voluntary promises and make them enforceable as conditions placed on the merger.

The American people expect and demand better.


See also:
* Stop Comcast!

* Opposing Comcast

* Regarding Comcast

* Comcast Sucks

* Thank You, Comcast, May I Have Another?

* NBC Now Only Available On Tuesdays Between 1 and 4


Comments welcome.


Posted on January 31, 2011

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