Friday, December 24, 2010

FCC To Pull A “Sleight Of Hand”?


Original Article

Is the FCC About to Give Comcast/NBC a Green Light?

by Josh Stearns      Fri Dec 24, 2010
Just days after the Federal Communications Commission sided with the biggest phone and cable companies and put in place a controversial and fundamentally flawed Net Neutrality rule, it is on the verge of giving another big handout to Big Media.

According to press reports, the FCC chairman Julius Genachowski is poised to approve the pending Comcast-NBC merger with conditions. Waiting until Congress was out the door and most people were starting their holidays, the FCC Chairman today circulated his plan to give Comcast the green light for their takeover of NBC. The move seems to play right into Comcast’s hands, as it has been pushing the FCC to wrap up their review before the end of the year.

“We are deeply disappointed that the FCC is apparently moving to approve this merger,” said Free Press Policy Counsel Corie Wright. “Comcast’s takeover of NBC would have a harmful impact on competition and consumers, particularly in the emerging online video market. The conditions reportedly proposed by the FCC chairman recognize this danger, but we have serious concerns that they will not go far enough to protect the public from this unprecedented media behemoth.”

The next step is for all five FCC commissioners to vote on the chairman’s merger proposal.

Unfortunately for Comcast, press reports suggest that a number of the FCC commissioners have already left Washington and won’t be back until the new year. Even Jeff Zucker, the head of NBC, had to admit that no deal would get done before 2011.

If this merger is approved it will profoundly transform our media system. Comcast-NBC will control one in five television viewing hours, and it will have a stake in 125 cable channels, film studios, websites and other properties. Consumers are the ones who will be paying the price through higher bills and fewer choices, and they deserve a full and thorough review of the impact of this merger. We don’t need another massive giveaway to big media that leaves consumers high and dry.

In the brief window of time between now and when the FCC commissioners vote in January, we need a groundswell of voices from around the country to stand up against this merger. Comcast may be rushing to get this deal done as quickly as possible, but the FCC’s mandate is to serve the public, not bow to the industry it is supposed to be regulating. With the chairman making it clear that he is ready to rubber stamp this merger, the decision will come down to FCC commissioner's Copps and Clyburn. Over the past year, the two have emerged as vital champions for the public interest. As the vote on this merger approaches, we need to let them know that the public is with them.

Let's ring in the new year by saying no to Comcast/NBC.