Franken Takes Aim at Comcast/NBCU and Comcast/TWC

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), veteran critic of the Comcast/NBCU merger and more recent critic of the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger, has written the FCC combining both those criticisms into a package deal, or more to the point, no deal.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, Franken said Comcast has had "compliance issues" with the NBCU deal conditions, which should be taken into account when the FCC looks at the TWC meld. Comcast is expected to make its official pitch to the FCC in late March.

"I am concerned that the proposed acquisition could result in higher prices, fewer choices, and even worse service for consumers," Franken wrote. "To the extent that Comcast has a history of breaching its legal obligations to consumers, such history should be taken into account when evaluating Comcast's proposal for future market expansion."

Comcast argues it has no such history of breaching obligations.

"Comcast is proud of our track-record on complying with the conditions from our past transactions including NBCUniversal," said Comcast spokesperson Sena Fitzmaurice. "We've gone above and beyond in compliance with most conditions, including our low-income broadband program, the amount of local news programming and investment in local stations, the amount of on-demand programming, especially children's programming, and many more areas."

The FCC did find that Comcast had not fulfilled the neighborhooding condition in the NBCU deal, but Comcast has continued to argue that since it did not move Bloomberg (which complained) to any disadvantageous channel positions after the merger that it had not violated the condition.

Franken has already written regulators about the TWC deal, saying that concentrating more market power in the hands of fewer companies will be consumer unfriendly.

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.