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Opposing Comcast

The FCC held a forum on Tuesday at Northwestern on the proposed Comcast-NBC Universal merger (see "Stop Comcast!"). The local media appears to have ignored it. Here's a smattering of the coverage elsewhere.

1. "The merger between Comcast and NBC Universal would present the cable TV giant with both incentives and ability to discriminate against competitors, especially in the emerging market of online video, a cadre of detractors argued Tuesday," Variety reports.

"The occasion was an FCC field hearing held at Chicago's Northwestern U. Law School, where two expert panels discussed the impact of the proposed merger on distributors of online video and multichannel video programming. A majority of the first panel voiced views that the combined entity would decrease choice, investment and diversity in video entertainment. No reps from Comcast or NBC U participated in the panels at the hearing."

2. "The Federal Communications Commission focused Tuesday on how Comcast's proposed merger with NBC Universal will impact the small, new but fast-growing market for video over the Internet," the Washington Post reports.

"Democratic Commissioner Michael J. Copps said promises by the companies to behave well and not to block content aren't enough.

"'Approval of this proposed transaction would be a very steep climb,' Copps said in his speech at the Chicago hearing. 'I cannot, I will not, accept half-hearted pledges of fairness from industry when the future of the Web is at stake. And right now the assurances and conditions we have received on this Comcast/NBCU proposal don't pass the red-face test.'

"Susan Crawford, a former White House adviser and professor at Cardoza Law School, said Comcast is motivated to merge with NBC in an attempt to avoid being a dumb pipe. That means it wants to prioritize its own content and withhold it from other distributors that would pose competition to its broadband and video business.

"'Future growth for Comcast, already the country's leading broadband provider, will come from having the most subscribers to the fastest and most valued pipe,' she said in her testimony at the field hearing. 'Comcast would like, instead, a pipe that is capable of controlling, tiering and prioritizing online content, just as a cable distributor does. The leadership of the company believes that increased participation in content will delay the day when that pipe is just a pipe.'"

3. Big banks, BP and . . . Comcast NBCU? Participants of a public forum on the proposed Comcast-NBCU joint venture that was held by the FCC at Northwestern University Law School today referenced the financial meltdown and the oil spill to warn of the consequences the deal could have on the online video marketplace, with FCC Commissioner Michael J. Cobbs invoking 'oil-soaked beaches and lost livelihoods across the Gulf' as an example of the consequences that could come from lack of regulation," NewTeeVee reports.

4. "Most panelists expressed serious concern, if not outright objection, to the proposed $30 billion merger of Comcast and NBC Universal at a public hearing the FCC held in Chicago Tuesday," the National Journal reports.

"Comcast Senior Vice President Joe Waz, however, defended Comcast's pledges in a blog post Tuesday, saying the merger enjoys 'the support of hundreds of organizations who know Comcast and NBCU and can attest to the fact that we are serious about our commitment to local communities. We've also enjoyed the support of many independent programmers, advertisers, technology companies, and other stakeholders. We think that all of this support, along with the agreements we've reached with stakeholders, makes a compelling case for timely completion of the federal approvals process this year.'"

5. "The Tennis Channel's CEO lobbed concerns about the proposed Comcast and NBC Universal merger Tuesday similar to what other independent programmers have expressed. Ken Solomon, who heads the 7-year-old network, urged the FCC to lock in safeguards to prohibit Comcast from strong-arming smaller networks," MediaPost reports.

"Solomon said conditions should require Comcast to carry independent networks with the same terms as NBC Universal programming on its cable system. If there are 'differences in treatment,' Comcast would have the burden of proof about explaining the discrepancy, he said.

"But Colleen Abdoulah, who heads the WOW! Cable system, suggested at the Chicago public forum that Comcast could still rig the system. Comcast could essentially agree with itself on a small affiliate fee for an NBCU channel - which would not cost the wider company anything - but would drive down the fees it would pay the Tennis Channel."

6. "Web TV Takes A Crack At Comcast-NBCU Union."

7. Meanwhile: "EU Approves Comcast Buy of NBC Universal Stake."

8. And: "The FCC notified Comcast and NBC Universal Tuesday that it has restarted the clock on the 180-day period it is using to evaluate their proposed merger."


Comments welcome.


Posted on July 15, 2010

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