Policy

Speaking Frank(en)ly on NBCU Deal

1/17/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Washington — Sen. Al Franken
(D-Minn.) continues to bite the
hand that once fed him.

One of the strongest critics of the
Comcast-NBC Universal merger, the
former Saturday Night Live writer
and performer last week asked his
supporters to sign on to a letter to
the Federal Communications Commission
and Justice Department,
asking it to block what’s now seen
as a likely conditional approval of
the deal, with a vote expected in the
next couple of weeks.

In a YouTube video seeking signatures
and in the body of the petition,
Franken said the deal giving Comcast
51% control of the post-merger joint
venture would be a disaster, leading
to higher cable rates and potentially
limiting access to online content.

“These massive corporations have
spent millions on lobbyists and terrified their small and medium-sized
competitors into remaining silent for
fear of retaliation,” Franken said.

Many small and midsized industry
players, including the American
Cable Association and the roughly
9,000 independent cable operators
it represents, are continuing to
speak out about their concerns over
the Comcast-NBC Universal deal.
The FCC has tried to address some
of those issues in proposed conditions,
though not to the ACA’s satisfaction.

Franken conceded the deck is
stacked against him, but called the
merger fight the first battle in a war
against further media consolidation.

Meanwhile, Comcast continued
to add public-interest conditions to the deal last week.
It confi rmed that NBCU’s Spanish-language Telemundo
stations would add 1,000 hours of news and public interest
programming and more educational children’s programming,
and pledged not to degrade the signals of
public, education and government channels on its cable
systems or run interactive broadcast ads during shows
for kids under 13.

March