The media reform organization Free Press has voiced its support
for broadcasters concerned with how Comcast's acquisition of NBC would affect
the television industry's competitive landscape. On March 29, CBS affiliates
board chairman Tim Busch issued a letter to CBS affiliates to express the
board's concern that the merger would unfairly empower NBC and weaken its
rivals. "Our specific concern is that Comcast/NBCU would have incentives to
competitively disadvantage and discriminate against non-NBC affiliated stations
in terms of Comcast's cable carriage, retransmission consent negotiations, and
advertising and promotion practices," wrote Busch.
Press too sees the marriage of a cable giant to a broadcast giant as a threat
to a level playing field. "The affiliates join a
growing roster of industry and public interest groups that fear that Comcast's
takeover of NBC will have disastrous results for competition," said Free Press
policy counsel Corie Wright in a statement. "Most importantly, it is consumers
that will ultimately foot the bill for this deal through diminished choice and
ever increasing cable rates. We look forward to the affiliates' ideas on how to
possibly lessen the negative impacts of this merger. But given the threats to
competition this merger poses, it is unlikely they can be remedied by anything
but an outright rejection of this deal."
Comcast's purchase of a majority share in NBC awaits
Busch has met with his affiliate association counterparts at
Fox and ABC, and suggested to B&C recently that the three boards might do a
better job of protecting their respective affiliate bodies' interests by
working together on some common issues. "We need to start doing things en
masse," he said. "Having our voices under one banner is probably more
productive than all of us doing what we do separately."
All four network affiliate boards will be in Las Vegas at the same time
in April, to coincide with the annual NAB/RTDNA conventions.
In the letter, Busch says he hopes to meet with Comcast and
encourage the cable operator to "voluntarily agree to have certain
regulatory conditions incorporated in any FCC approval of the merger to assure
non-discriminatory and fair treatment of CBS-affiliated stations following the