latest criticism of the proposed Comcast/NBCU joint venture to the
announcement that Comcast's COO Steve Burke would replace Jeff Zucker
atop NBCU if the deal is approved, the Coalition
for Competition In Media wrote a letter to the President Monday saying
it wanted him to make sure the merger received "the scrutiny
that it deserves."
scrutinized the announcement about Burke, the coalition said replacing
NBC leadership before the deal is approved--citing reports that Burke
has been a "steady presence" at NBC already--is a
"a complete affront to the regulatory process and the job asked of your
administration to protect consumers and competition."
It also cites Comcast's lobbying for the deal through millions in campaign and charitable donations as cause for concern.
coalition comprises a number of deal critics who forged an alliance.
They include Bloomberg, Common Cause, Free Press, Media Access Project,
the Parents Television Council and the Writers Guild
East and West.
Comcast's well-documented business practices, consumers are threatened
by increased cable and Internet rates, fewer entertainment choices and
independent voices in news and other content, and
less competitive pressure to improve Comcast's notoriously poor
Comcast's well-documented business practices," the group wrote,
"consumers are threatened by increased cable and Internet rates, fewer
entertainment choices and independent voices in news and
other content, and less competitive pressure to improve Comcast's
notoriously poor customer service."
countered that the deal will increase diverse voices, including striking
deals to that effect with a number of minority groups; increase news
content, another pledge it has made in a public
interest filing at the FCC, and mean more investment in NBC--GE has
clearly signaled it is a business it wants to get out of, giving Comcast
control of the joint venture with the expectation Comcast will
eventually buy GE's stake.
the letter were also sent to the FCC and Justice, which are currently
vetting the deal, with handicappers looking for a decision, likely a
conditional "yes," by the fourth quarter or early
Comcast NBCU transaction has already been the most thoroughly reviewed
merger in media history - with one
of the longest FCC comment periods and the most congressional hearings,
six, of any similar transaction," the company responded in a statement.
"For a lobbying coalition funded by our competitors to imply the review
of this transaction has not been deliberate
and thorough is insulting to the Congress, the FCC, and the Department
of Justice. We're proud of the over 1,000 local community organizations,
elected officials, diversity organizations and others that have
expressed their support for this transaction that
is pro-competitive and fully in the public interest."
did not comment on the characterization of Burke as a "steady
presence," but a source did say on background
that it was fairly common for executives in such a transaction to meet
and plan the integration of the company. In this case, the source said,
given that NBCU was not a stand-alone company, all the human resources
and pay and legal functions that have been
handled by GE and will now have to be handled by Comcast.