Jun 08, 2010
When you watch the news or read the paper, it's not hard to find
evidence of the negative impact of media consolidation. As media
companies get bigger, local news and in-depth reporting take a backseat
to sensationalism and celebrity gossip.
Now there's a new media merger on the horizon. And it's a real doozy.
A few months ago, cable giant Comcast announced it would buy NBC.
Comcast has agreed to pay billions of dollars to acquire the venerable
broadcaster--but the cost to the public will be far greater.
If Comcast, the nation's largest cable and Internet access provider,
takes over NBC, it would be the largest media merger in a generation.
The combined company would include the NBC broadcast network (which
supplies programming to NBC-affiliated stations all over the country),
10 NBC owned-and-operated TV stations, the Telemundo broadcast network,
16 owned-and-operated Spanish language TV stations, Internet properties,
exclusive rights to the Olympic games, regional sports networks,
television and movie studios as well as an ownership stake in a slew of
cable channels, including MSNBC, the USA Network, and E!.
In short, Comcast and NBC would control a sizeable chunk of the
content you watch, as well as access to the platforms you use to watch
it--namely, broadcast TV, cable TV, and the Internet. Indeed, market
analysts have estimated that a combined Comcast/NBC would control one in
every five hours of television viewing.
The proposed merger also threatens competition and innovation as new
forms of online video delivery, like Hulu.com, are emerging and gaining
audiences. If the merger is approved, Comcast could prioritize its own
online content and stifle the free flow of Internet traffic, giving you
less choice in what you watch and how you watch it online.
If this seems like a raw deal for consumers, you're right. But that
hasn't stopped Comcast from shelling out millions to convince Washington
otherwise. Comcast spent $12.6 million on 100 lobbyists in 2009, and
another $3.1 million in the first quarter of 2010. Most of this has gone
toward hiring Beltway insiders, including 78 former government
officials, to join its lobbying arm.
That may sound pricey, but Comcast can well afford it. In 2009,
Comcast's operating income was $7.2 billion, up 7 percent from the year
before. Plus, spending $15 million on 100 lobbyists is chump change when
you consider what Comcast pays its top brass. Last year, CNN Money ranked
Comcast as one of the five "Highest Paid Worst Performers" in America.
Roberts' 2008 compensation: $40.8 million.
If you're a Comcast customer, you probably think that money would be
better spent improving your service or lowering your bills rather than
helping Comcast get even bigger. Comcast consistently ranks among the
worst companies in customer service, and the Consumerist recently named
it the "Worst Company in America." Even so, Comcast's customers have
already endured price hikes of nearly 50 percent in some areas. Clearly,
the company isn't above padding its bottom line by raising your cable
That's the bad news. Here's the good news: The government gets to
review the proposed merger. The Department of Justice and the Federal
Communications Commission are supposed to carefully review the
transaction and consider what's best for us--the public. Please tell
them what you think. The FCC is taking public comments until June 21.
before it's too late and tell the FCC why it should reject this bad
deal for the American people.
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