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Unions Lay Into Comcast-NBC Universal - Broadcasting & Cable

Unions Lay Into Comcast-NBC Universal

Communications Workers of America, IFTA, others weigh in
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Union representatives had plenty to say about the proposed Comcast/NBCU
merger, according to a copy of their prepared testimony for Thursday's
House Antitrust Committee hearing.

Larry Cohen, president of the
Communications Workers of America, which represents some Comcast
employees, said the deal would likely mean "the loss of good jobs, the
erosion of employee rights, and undermine living standards in the
communications and media industries."

He said that given the $8
billion in new debt NBC will be taking on day one, there will be
"intense pressure" to cut costs.

Comcast Chairman Brian Roberts
said at earlier Hill hearings that there are no plans for widespread
layoffs, pointing out that there is not much overlap in the primarily
vertical transaction. In their joint testimony prepared for Thursday's
hearing, Roberts and NBCU President Jeff Zucker said the deal would
increase investment, since Comcast is focused "exclusively on
communications and entertainment" (unlike GE), and that the deal will
"preserve and create sustainable media and technology jobs in the U.S."

Cohen says the FCC and DOJ should not rely on voluntary
commitments.

Jean Prewitt, president of the Independent Film
& Television Alliance, said what was good for Comcast and NBCU in
the merger, which she identified as cost-savings and synergies, "is not
good for the American public." And she suggested that Comcast's promise
of more independent programming might, instead of a field where all
flowers bloom, prove to be "a walled and sparsely tended garden."

She
called it one more step on the road to vertical integration in the
media industry that has already reduced the opportunities for
independent programming to reach the public.

IFTA views the
Internet as a new opportunity to reach the public with its programming,
but IFTA says that could be closed to independents as well.

Comcast
has pledged to add independent programming as a voluntary condition of
the deal, but Prewitt is not assuaged. "Comcast has not clearly outlined
its definition of an 'independent channel,'" she said. "We do not know
what percentage of its content will be truly independent. We do not have
binding assurances that budgets for acquiring content will be
competitive with those of the major channels."

In short, she
said, the deal should not be approved without strong and enforceable
conditions that insure independents have more "distribution slots."

Scheduled
to testify at the hearing in addition to Cohen. Prewitt, Roberts and
Zucker are Andrew Schwartzman of Media Access Project, Mark Cooper of
Consumer Federation, and Marc Morial, president of the Urban League, who
weighed in on the two companies earlier in the day.

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