Comcast-NBCU: FCC's Clyburn Calls For Field Hearings On Merger

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FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn, in a speech May 11, called on the agency to hold public field hearings on the proposed Comcast-NBC Universal joint venture.

Various groups, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, have urged the FCC to hold hearings, including field hearings, on the proposed $30 billion deal. So far, the FCC has not agreed to do so.

In a speech at a Free Press summit Tuesday, Clyburn said a "great start" to interacting more with consumers beyond the Beltway--which she said she was encouraging her colleagues to do--would be to hold such hearings.

"Obviously we do not have the resources to travel the country getting individualized views from every city and town. But we do have the ability to hold one or more hearings in places where consumers will be directly affected -- either positively or negatively -- by this landmark transaction," she said.

She said it would "force" the commission to "interact and see up-close how Americans feel about the merger."

Clyburn was preaching to the crowd as she laid into lobbyists and big business over the debate about reclassifying broadband. She said the lobbyists' "messaging machine" was mischaracterizing the Title II reclassification as a return to Ma Bell-style monopoly phone regs. "That argument could not be farther than the truth," she said. Ditto the assertion that the commission is trying to take over the Internet. "The only threatened 'takeover' of the Internet is by industry. If they begin to restrict access, prioritize their own offerings, or make other critical changes to the structure of what has been an incredible economic driver as an open platform, then we all should be concerned."

The FCC did not hold merger-specfic hearings under Republican chairmen Michael Powell or Kevin Martin, and an agency spokesperson could not recall any field hearings on a specific transaction under any chairman.

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