Comcast-NBCU: Waxman Calls For Hearings

House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) wants hearings on Comcast/NBCU "at the earliest practicable date."

"The proposed Comcast-NBC Universal joint venture agreement has the potential to reshape the media marketplace," he said in a statement. "This proposal raises questions regarding diversity, competition, and the future of the production and distribution of video content across broadcasting, cable, online, and mobile platforms. It is imperative that the FCC, the Justice Department, and the FTC rigorously assess whether this transaction is in the public interest."

He said he would work with Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher (D-Va.) to schedule the hearings.

Senate Communications Subcommittee Chairman Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) said his subcommittee will keep a close watch on a Comcast/NBCU deal as well.

"The Comcast-NBC deal announced is extremely significant in scope and raises some complex questions that I fully expect Obama Administration officials will consider carefully," he said in a statement. "My Subcommittee will monitor that process closely to ensure that any legitimate anticompetitive and public interest concerns are fully addressed."

Advocacy groups opposed to the deal have plenty of concerns, while Comcast argues it is procompetitive and in the public interest, allowing it to better serve "Hispanics, African
Americans, children and families, [as well as] and other key audience segments."

Will that include hearings? "We'll work with [Commerce] Chairman [Jay] Rockefeller on that question," said Kerry Press Secretary Whitney Smith.

Rockefeller's statement did not talk about hearings, but it was the most critical.

"I have some serious questions about the deal announced for Comcast to assume control of NBC Universal," said Rockefeller. "A joint venture of this magnitude would benefit from regulatory oversight. When major media companies swell to control both content and distribution, we need to make sure consumers are not left with lesser content and higher rates."

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski had no comment on the deal beyond a statement from spokeswoman Jen Howard that "The FCC will carefully examine the proposed merger and will be thorough, fair, and fact-based in its review."

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.