House E&C Democrats Call for Merger Hearings

House Energy & Commerce Committee Democratic leaders have asked their Republican counterparts, who control the agenda, to hold hearings on the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable and AT&T/DirecTV mergers, and a Sprint/T-Mobile deal if that ever materializes.

That request came in a letter Tuesday from Reps. Henry Waxman and Anna Eshoo (both D-Calif.), the ranking members of the full committee and Communications Subcommittee, respectively, and a third California Democrat on the committees, Doris Matsui, to E&C chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and subcommittee chair Greg Walden (R-Ore.).

That letter came on the eve of a Communications Subcommittee hearing on media ownership issues, but said it was important to gauge the impact of the mergers on the public interest. And they did not leave any doubt they had concerns about the size of the combined Comcast/TWC. They pointed out that after the merger, the combined company would be 50% larger than its next largest pay competitor, DirecTV.

The Dems said they were taking no position on the deals, but also said the proposed mergers of Comcast and TWC and AT&T and DirecTV "signal a trend toward consolidation" that raises issues, including anticompetitive use of data caps and interconnection fees and the ability of the company to leverage owned programming to disadvantage independents.

"To date, there have been two congressional hearings and nearly 10 hours of testimony dedicated to the Comcast and Time Warner Cable transaction where we had the opportunity to present the numerous pro-consumer, pro-competitive benefits of our transaction before Congress," said Comcast in response to the call for more hearings. "There have been other hearings on issues related to our industry where our deal has been discussed in Congress. During the review process we look forward to continuing to work with Congress, the FCC, and the DOJ to show the multiple pro-consumer results of this transaction.”

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.