Coalition Seeks Another Comcast/NBCU Hearing

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Comcast/NBCU critics have sent letters to the heads of the relevant congressional committees calling for a "final" hearing on the proposed joint venture.

In letters to the chairs and ranking members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and Senate Commerce Committee, the Coalition for Competition in Media argued that the deal deserves another vetting on the Hill -- it has already been the subject of a number of Senate and House hearings and an FCC field "forum" -- because it will "set the benchmark for future industry consolidation."

The letter itemized their problems with the deal, including what they say will be higher prices and reduced choices and a detrimental impact on independent programming, competition and innovation.

The coalition argued that competitors for triple-play customers -- cable, Internet and phone -- "may soon discover that they are at a competitive disadvantage as they must purchase from Comcast much of the programming that will be necessary for them to compete. It may not be long before one or both of these companies, in order to level the playing field, decide to purchase one of the few remaining large content providers."

They said that since those hearings, "several major entities have filed ‘petitions to deny' at the FCC, and a number of new economic analyses have been conducted," arguing that they add "multiple new dimensions to the discussion."

Coalition members include Bloomberg, Common Cause, Free Press, Media Access Project, Parents Television Council, Public Knowledge, the Sports Fans Coalition, WealthTV, and the Writers Guild of America, East and West.

Comcast countered that the group was just trying a delaying tactic, and reiterated its belief the deal will close by year's end.

"There have already been an unprecedented number of public hearings on this transaction, six Congressional hearings, an FCC public forum, and one of the longest public comment periods in Commission history," Comcast responded in a statement. "Most of these opponents have opposed the transaction since the day it was announced over nine months ago and are only seeking to further delay the review process. Congress, the FCC and DOJ should reject the delaying tactics of this group driven by a few special business interests, and the review process should continue without interruption. We continue to believe this transaction will close by year-end."

Both the FCC and the Justice Department continue to vet the deal from antitrust and public-interest perspectives, with a decision expected in either the fourth quarter or early 2011.

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