Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) Tuesday praised the FCC's decision to pause the informal shot clock on its review of the Comcast/TWC merger and effectively extend the reply comment period on the proposed deal to Oct. 29.
Cárdenas, who has been critical of the deal, said the move shows the FCC "realizes there are still voices that have legitimate concerns." Those voices include at the FCC's Media Bureau, who said they still needed more info from the parties and to vet a Comcast analysis of program discrimination that refuted the FCC's own analysis in the Comcast/NBCU merger.
Cárdenas said that extending the comment period would insure the public that if the deal is approved, it is "fair to consumers; ensures that smaller, independent voices can thrive; and promotes diversity in the media."
But he also pointed out that the FCC took a similar action in the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile merger, and wound up denying that deal.
“By extending the comment period, the FCC clearly realizes that there are still voices that have legitimate concerns with the merger who still need to be heard,” said Cárdenas. “Part of the challenge we face is that many of those concerned with the merger will potentially have to sit across the negotiating table with a new Comcast-Time Warner Cable. Because this new entity will have such broad control over media production, distribution, cable and broadband, there is a natural chilling effect for many of those voices
Cárdenas is concerned about the impact of the deal on smaller, independent programmers. He was among 50 House members who sent a letter to the FCC to that effect in August. He also hosted a roundtable with Writers Guild of America West members last week. WGAW is also concerned about the merged company's potential for limiting access to what it sees as a new, online outlet for independents with limited access to traditional distribution outlets controlled by merged media giants.
Cárdenas was also a critic of the Dodgers regional sports network carriage impasse involving Time Warner Cable in California. He called that dispute a subset of larger media consolidation battles, and says when he talked to Wheeler about the Dodgers issue, they also talked about the Comcast/TWC merger.