Comcast/NBCU deal critic Sen. Bernie Sanders
(I-Vt.) wrote the FCC commissioners Tuesday
telling them they should nix the proposed deal and that it would not be in the
public interest "no matter how many conditions were attached."
Essentially his opposition boiled down to allowing
another big media company to get bigger, particularly given evolving
distribution models that the new company could exert control over. "The sale
of NBCU to Comcast would create an enormously powerful, vertically
integrated media conglomerate, causing irreparable damage to the American media
landscape... We do not need another conglomerate with control over the
production and distribution of sports news and entertainment."
Sanders cited the American Cable Association's
study from former FCC economist William Rogerson that the deal could
cost consumers an additional $2.4 billion--Comcast has called the study flawed
and said in a response at the FCC Monday that it was misleading and should be
given "no weight."
Sanders took that figure and ran with it, saying
that he thought it would be an obvious conclusion that the public interest
would not be serviced by "a regressive wealth transfer of $2.4 billion
from ordinary citizens to what would be one of the largest
corporate entities in the United States."
Sanders said that if the deal were approved,
Comcast would have the incentive to favor NBCU over other content
companies in its carriage negotiations. Comcast has pointed out that there are
program access rules that prevent favoring co-owned cable content.
Comcast has also agreed to apply those rules to
its retransmission consent negotiations for NBC and co-owned Telemundo
"The overwhelming record in support of the Comcast NBCU transaction
show the significant public interest benefits that it will deliver, including
more independent programming choices, more opportunities for ownership
diversity, more local public affairs programming, more viewing options for
families and children, and accelerating the ‘anytime, anywhere' video future
consumers want," said Sena Fitzmaurice, VP of government communications at Comcast, in
response to the Sanders letter. "The FCC has heard support from over 400
elected officials from coast to coast, along with countless community
organizations and groups representing diverse communities. Various
analyses provided by Dr. Rogerson on behalf of ACA, the interest group cited by
Sen. Sanders, and a handful of other opponents of the transaction have been
thoroughly rebutted. With regard to transition and integration planning, this
is common, proper, and expected in a transaction of this type. At every step of
the way, this process has been supervised by counsel to ensure faithful
adherence to the rules, and that will continue."
Sanders' letter comes as the FCC and Justice are widely believed to be
wrapping up their reviews of the deal. The FCC's informal shot clock for reviewing
the merger runs out next week.