Numerous sources speaking on background said Monday (March 8) that NBC--and Comcast--are not expecting NBCU President Jeff Zucker to be asked to testify at the Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the $30 billion Comcast/NBCU joint venture this week.
No witness list had been issued at press time for the Thursday hearing, but Zucker and Comcast Chairman Brian Roberts have been the star witnesses at the previous three Hill hearings on the deal. Zucker has gotten plenty of questions from the Hill panels on issues like access to the Olympics, to online content in general, and the effects of the fall of the financial interest and syndication rules on the ability of independent programmers to crack the network lineups.
A couple of sources suggested that the committee was simply focusing on the acquiring party, which is Comcast, and that that was not unusual. A spokeswoman for the committee could not be reached for comment at press time. A committee source said he thought it sounded unusual to him not to ask someone from NBC to the hearing.
"It wouldn't suprise me," said Media Access Project President Andrew Shchwartzman, who has been a witness for the opposition at the hearings. "He has to come all the way from the West Coast and he is just getting sold. They may be able to make the case that he is not necessary. But I think there are questions he should answer, particularly the relationship to [online video site] Hulu."
Lending some support to the theory of an absent
Zucker was a hearing name change late Monday that gave the committee some wiggle
room about having to have an NBCU voice.
The old title was Consumers, Competition and
Proposed Comcast/NBCU Merger. The new title according to an e-mail obtained by
B&C is "Hearing on “Consumers, Competition, and Consolidation in the
Video and Broadband Market."