Comcast-NBCU: Rep. Waters Asks FCC to Extend Comment Period

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) has asked the FCC to extend the comment period on its review of the proposed Comcast-NBCU merger.

That came in a April 12 letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. Waters said 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."

She said she wants to make sure public interest groups "have a chance to be heard." The FCC denied a request by Media Access Project for an extension of the final comment deadline on the deal from June 17 to Aug. 1. MAP cited an "unusually large" number of comment deadlines coming due in the next couple of months and pointed out that the FCC had not put the deal out for comment until March 18, after the parties made a supplemental filing. MAP also noted the FCC's requirement that all arguments be made in initial comments.

The FCC pointed out that it had already established a 90-day window for comments and pleadings "two or three times" the period for previous mergers.

"The Commission has an obligation to review the proposed transaction as expeditiously as possible," the FCC wrote in denying the request. "It is often the case that potential petitioners or commenters such as MAP have interests in multiple Commission proceedings,
and the Commission's schedule cannot be dictated by the choices made by those parties regarding the allocation of their time and resources."

Waters asked the FCC to reconsider the decision not to grant the 45-day extension. "An extension of time is especially important in these proceedings given the Commission's request that petitioners raise all issues in their initial filings," she wrote. "Given the extensive resources needed to participate in [a] proceeding and the complex and significant nature of this transaction, a 45-day extension is necessary and in the public interest."

Waters is a long-time critic of media consolidation and what she sees as its adverse impact on diversity of voices.

The deal's impact on small, including minority, businesses will get a hearing later this month in the Senate Small Business Committe.

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.