Congress Takes Another Look at Comcast/NBC

Although the Congressional hearings on Comcast’s proposed take over of NBC are over, the issues is still clearly under debate in the halls of Congress. In the last week two members of Congress have taken significant steps to ramp up pressure on Comcast and ensure a fair merger review process that fully engages the public, who will be most impacted by this deal.

Video: Sen. Franken Appeals to the Pocketbook on Comcast/NBC Merger

Today, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) raised important questions about Comcast’s proposed takeover of NBC at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with Attorney General Eric Holder.

Sen. Franken has been one of the strongest critics of the Comcast/NBC merger, and today he used his entire time with the attorney general to ask for specifics on how the Department of Justice was examining the proposed deal. Holder replied that he couldn’t give details about an ongoing investigation.

But then Sen. Franken made an appeal we can all understand – to our bank accounts. Franken noted his concern that the merger could mean higher prices for consumers across the nation – whether they subscribe to Comcast or not. This got Holder’s attention.

Watch the video:

Although this exchange marked a light moment in the hearing, this merger is no joke, and Holder promised that the DOJ would conduct a “thorough investigation.” This comes on the heels of a strong statement by Christine Varney, who heads the DOJ’s antitrust division. At an earlier hearing, Varney promised that there was no such thing as a “rubber stamp” at the agency.

Rep. Waters Tells the FCC to Listen to the Public on Comcast/NBC Merger

There are two agencies that could stop Comcast’s takeover of NBC – the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Communications Commission. The DOJ evaluates the merger under the country’s antitrust laws. The FCC evaluates the merger under a public interest standard. Yet, tight deadlines at the agency could keep many people from making their voice heard.

On Wednesday, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) introduced a bill that would allow for more time for public input on the proposed Comcast-NBC merger by extending the public comment period by 45 additional days.

She said in a statement:

The FCC must allow the public more time to present information, make arguments and raise questions about the takeover by Comcast — the nation’s biggest cable and broadband Internet company — of NBC Universal, which owns broadcast and cable networks, TV stations and programs, and movie studios. A merger of this magnitude would have an enormous impact on virtually every American, and I want to make sure individuals and public interest groups have a chance to be heard.

Comcast and NBC have an army of lobbyists blanketing Washington, D.C. and visiting lawmakers at the FCC and Congress. When it comes time to submit formal arguments to the FCC, Comcast and NBC have a team of lawyers doing research and developing their case for why this merger is a good idea. The Washington Post noted, “In the same way that it aggressively grew its empire by acquiring one cable system at a time, the company has methodically added one lobbyist after another and steadily spread more money around the nation’s capital as its interests expanded beyond the television screen.”

This is what we’re up against, and the FCC needs to make sure the public’s voices are not drowned out in this debate.

Free Press’s Joe Torres cheered Rep. Waters:

“This is one of the most important media transactions in history. The public has continually rejected media consolidation because it reduces the quality of the news and programming they receive. If Comcast is allowed to consolidate with NBC, it would give the cable giant greater control over our nation’s media system and likely lead to fewer content choices and higher cable prices. We support Rep. Waters and echo her call for the FCC to give the public enough time to comment on this deal.”

This bill sends a message. But it shouldn’t take legislation to get the FCC to do the right thing and give people time to weigh in.

We commend Rep. Waters for standing with the public. And we’ll keep pushing the FCC to do the same. But if you want to weigh in, you don’t need to wait for the FCC to come to your town. Help us fight back against Comcast’s lobbying machine by building a public record of protest in the official FCC docket.

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