Unions Lay Into Comcast-NBC Universal

Union representatives had plenty to say about the proposed
Comcast/NBCU merger, according to a copy of their prepared testimony for
Thursday's House Antitrust Committee hearing.

Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, which represents
some Comcast employees, said the deal would likely mean "the loss of good
jobs, the erosion of employee rights, and undermine living standards in the
communications and media industries."

He said that given the $8 billion in new debt NBC will be taking on day one,
there will be "intense pressure" to cut costs.

Comcast Chairman Brian Roberts said at earlier Hill hearings that there are no
plans for widespread layoffs, pointing out that there is not much overlap in
the primarily vertical transaction. In their joint testimony prepared for
Thursday's hearing, Roberts and NBCU President Jeff Zucker said the deal would
increase investment, since Comcast is focused "exclusively on
communications and entertainment" (unlike GE), and that the deal will
"preserve and create sustainable media and technology jobs in the

Cohen says the FCC and DOJ should not rely on voluntary commitments.

Jean Prewitt, president of the Independent Film & Television Alliance, said
what was good for Comcast and NBCU in the merger, which she identified as
cost-savings and synergies, "is not good for the American public."
And she suggested that Comcast's promise of more independent programming might,
instead of a field where all flowers bloom, prove to be "a walled and sparsely
tended garden."

She called it one more step on the road to vertical integration in the media
industry that has already reduced the opportunities for independent programming
to reach the public.

IFTA views the Internet as a new opportunity to reach the public with its
programming, but IFTA says that could be closed to independents as well.

Comcast has pledged to add independent programming as a voluntary condition of
the deal, but Prewitt is not assuaged. "Comcast has not clearly outlined
its definition of an 'independent channel,'" she said. "We do not
know what percentage of its content will be truly independent. We do not have
binding assurances that budgets for acquiring content will be competitive with
those of the major channels."

In short, she said, the deal should not be approved without strong and
enforceable conditions that insure independents have more "distribution

Scheduled to testify at the hearing in addition to Cohen. Prewitt, Roberts and
Zucker are Andrew Schwartzman of Media Access Project, Mark Cooper of Consumer
Federation, and Marc Morial, president of the Urban League, whoweighed in on the two companies earlier in the day.

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.