Originally published: August 19, 2010
Last updated: August 19, 2010 - 9:41pm
Comcast should be barred from packaging NBC stations with popular cable channels when selling programming to video providers, an industry group told regulators reviewing the company's purchase of NBC Universal.
The Federal Communications Commission needs to restrict Comcast, the biggest U.S. cable company, from selling the TV stations or nine regional sports networks in a bundle with national cable channels it would own such as Bravo and USA Network, the American Cable Association said in a statement. The FCC requirement would "prevent the media giant from harming competitors and their subscribers," Matt Polka, president of the Pittsburgh-based organization, said in an e- mail. The group said 150 of its members are in communities served by NBC stations or Comcast sports networks. The group is seeking to break up the channel packages media companies typically assemble, and "it's improper to apply an industrywide issue to only one company," Sena Fitzmaurice, a Washington-based Comcast spokeswoman, said.
Opponents say Comcast-NBC will have an incentive to raise prices and withhold programs from rivals.
Comcast's own filing in the FCC proceeding said that the "myriad public interest benefits including concrete, verifiable public interest commitments - outweigh any potential transaction-specific harms." In an 88-page document, Comcast refuted each of the criticisms of the joint venture -- ranging from higher prices for broadcast channels to restricted program access. Comcast executive vice president David Cohen noted that counter to the criticism of the deal, more that 1,000 comments supportive of the venture have been filed. "The benefits of this joint venture are real," Cohen wrote. "It will bring about a reinvigoration of broadcasting through and infusion of new capital and energy into NBC. We've committed to additional local broadcast content. We've committed to launch new independent channels, including channels with majority ownership by African Americans and Hispanics. We've committed to accelerate the creation of the "anytime, anywhere" future with a wide array of high-quality content. We want to bring these benefits to American consumers as soon as possible."
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