Last updated: June 10, 2010 - 8:29am
Sen Al Franken (D-MN) took aim at the Comcast-NBC Universal merger in a Senate Antitrust Subcommittee hearing June 9 on antitrust enforcement, as a top Justice Department official promised that the department would not rely on any stakeholders' promises when vetting a merger.
During his questioning of Christine Varney, assistant attorney general for antitrust, Sen Franken focused entirely on that merger and what he said was his "inherent distrust of NBC and Comcast's promises." Sen Franken said he could not stress enough that "it matters who runs our media companies," which he said influence how people looked at and understood the world. "So, it is a problem when the same company produces the programs and runs the pipes that bring us those programs," he said, adding, "at least it is to me." Sen Franken repeated his concerns about the percentage of in-house productions on network schedules since the deep-sixing of the financial interest and syndication rules in the early 1990's, and raised the specter of NBCU raising prices for its cable channels to Comcast and other MSOs since the price increase to Comcast would be "from one pocket to another.' Sen Franken said that NBC had assured Congress when arguing against fin-syn rules that their exit would not result in networks filling their schedules with their own programming. He asked Varney if she was aware of what had happened to NBC's schedule in the wave of that decision, and she had a ready answer. "They relatively promptly favored their own programming," she said. "That's exactly right," he answered.
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