Comcast-NBCU: FCC's Clyburn Calls for Field Hearings on Merger

FCC Commissioner Mignon
Clyburn, in a speech May 11, called on the commission 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

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

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.