Washington

Bloomberg, Others Oppose Comcast-NBCU as Advertised

Bloomberg LP, MAP, Free Press, WealthTV, others enumerate concerns in letter to FCC chairman, Justice Dept. overseer 6/21/2010 12:17:16 PM Eastern

Bloomberg, Media Access Project (MAP), Free Press, WealthTV and others say they oppose the Comcast-NBC Universal joint venture as currently constituted, which means the voluntary conditions offered up by the companies are not sufficient, in their view, and more needs to be required by the government.

That is according to a copy of a letter (supplied by Bloomberg) to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Christine Varney, who is overseeing the Justice Department's review of the deal. The groups say that they oppose the merger as filed, which is short of officially asking the FCC to deny the deal. Instead, they ask Genachowski and Varney to "exercise their authority to protect the public using whatever means deemed appropriate."

Theoretically that could include denying the deal outright, but it could also mean putting conditions on the deal that address the groups' concerns.

Those concerns include the potential for the deal to undermine independent programmers, "drive up" costs of cable and satellite programming, reduce online access to "must-have" programming, and a number of general perceived harms about the combination of NBCU and its programming and distribution assets with the largest cable distributor.

"[W]hat is completely predictable is that a company of this size will be able to exert an unhealthy degree of influence over the media landscape absent strong efforts to limit that control," they write, specifying the potential for editorial control over news, increased power in labor negotiations, control of ad messages, and even "determining how the Interent evolves."

That came as the FCC's midnight June 21 deadline for initial comments on the deal approaches.

Others signing on to the letter included common Cause, Communications Workers of America, Public Knwoledge and the Writers Guild, West.

Separately, MAP, Free Press, the Consumer Federation of America and likely others, will ask the FCC to deny the deal in a petition being filed later today.

"We are going to say that the [deal] needs to be dismissed," says MAP's Andrew Schwartzman, who says the number of signatories to the petition could grow by day's end. "There are still some people who are looking at it."

 

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