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Groups Urge FCC To Block NBC-Comcast Merger 160

Posted by Soulskill
from the my-tv-is-comcastic-enough-thanks dept.
GovTechGuy writes "A coalition of media companies, labor groups and privacy advocates have combined to urge the FCC to block the proposed merger of NBC Universal and cable giant Comcast. In a letter sent to the FCC Monday (PDF), the groups argue the new $30 billion entity would have unprecedented control over the media landscape, raising antitrust concerns. Among the threats listed are the potential for the new media giant to violate net neutrality and favor its own content both on television and online."
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Groups Urge FCC To Block NBC-Comcast Merger

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  • by nebaz (453974) on Monday June 21, 2010 @02:52PM (#32644406)

    I think monopoly is bad enough, but when you have businesses getting both into the content and distribution business, it allows for market abuse.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jgagnon (1663075)

      Yeah... it's like owning Park Place, Boardwalk, AND all the railroads at the same time. It sucks when it isn't you. :p

      • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Monday June 21, 2010 @03:42PM (#32645060) Homepage Journal

        Yeah... it's like owning Park Place, Boardwalk, AND all the railroads at the same time. It sucks when it isn't you. :p

        No, it's a lot worse than that. In Monopoly, when someone else owns a lot of valuable properties, at least it's another player who has the same goals you have, albeit adversarial. When your opponent makes money, although he takes it from you, it at least stays in the game and the rules don't change. Through smart play and careful management, you at least have a chance to get some of that back. There is still capital in the game. You can borrow, you can play.

        When corporations own the same monopoly of say, all the railroads and both utilities, it changes the fundamental rules of the game. It doesn't just add to their holdings, it wrecks the game for everybody. They don't want to just beat you, they want to make it so that you can't ever play again. People tend to make some fundamental mistakes when thinking about corporations. They're not people. They're legal fictions with destruction of the market built into their fictional DNA. Their agenda is of a much different nature than yours or mine.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by nine-times (778537)

          Well also there's the fact that Monopoly is... you know... a game. When someone owns Park Place, Boardwalk, and the railroads it simply "sucks when it isn't you". You were trying to do the same thing, because that's the point of the game. You're not worried about whether the railroads continue to provide good service to their customers, because that's not part of the game.

          But what we're talking about here is telecommunications infrastructure and information dissemination. These are not simply entertain

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by kramerd (1227006)

            You're not worried about whether the railroads continue to provide good service to their customers, because that's not part of the game

            Actually it is part of the game. If you own all of the railroads, it costs more to "use" them individually than if 4 different players each own one. Same with utilities or any property monopoly.

          • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

            These are essentially vital public services that we allow private companies to perform under the belief that private companies will do a better job.

            Yes, that's the mythology of the free market zealots.

            We've allowed them to take control of the discussion to the point where it's conventional wisdom that this nonexistent entity called the "free-market" is good and government is bad. Neither of those assertions is demonstrable, even if you could possibly find such a thing as a "free market" anywhere on earth,

            • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Monday June 21, 2010 @07:00PM (#32647210) Homepage

              We've allowed them to take control of the discussion to the point where it's conventional wisdom that this nonexistent entity called the "free-market" is good and government is bad.

              Yes. The problem there is, they're not *exactly* flat-out wrong. A real free market is not necessarily absolutely "free", basically a situation where a consumer has real valid choices between multiple competing vendors. Very often, giving consumers real choice allows for greater economic efficiency than having any kind of central authority make economic choices for everyone.

              There are a couple problems, though. First, very often, the vendors will seek to limit the choices of the consumers, thereby subverting the supposed "free-market forces". This is most obvious in cases where a monopoly or cartel is able to arbitrarily set prices for necessary goods, but it happens in other more subtle ways.

              Second, though the "free market" is often more efficient, there may be cases where "efficiency" is not the chief concern. It can be "more efficient" to ignore safety standards in manufacturing. It can be "more efficient" for the police to simply arrest and jail whoever they think is guilty, without need of evidence or a trial.

              I like free markets, but I'm also in favor of good government. The "free market" is a method we use to organize ourselves in order to produce cheap stuff, but "government" is a method we use to organize ourselves to ensure our lives have safety and justice.

              • by tsotha (720379)

                Second, though the "free market" is often more efficient, there may be cases where "efficiency" is not the chief concern. It can be "more efficient" to ignore safety standards in manufacturing. It can be "more efficient" for the police to simply arrest and jail whoever they think is guilty, without need of evidence or a trial.

                All markets exist inside some kind of regulatory framework, even if it's only laws against fraud. The free market is the most efficient way to deliver goods and services inside that r

        • Actually, if you've ever played Monopoly and gotten to the point where someone else owns Park Place, Boardwalk, and all the railroads, you're pretty much screwed, which sounds *exactly* like real life. You could also equivocate losing with "wrecking the game", since the game reaches a certain point where it cannot continue (and there's only one winner). Also, it doesn't take much to destroy the "smart play and careful management" approach, either, since your piece moves at the whim of the dice. I do agree,
        • by Lord Kano (13027)

          They're legal fictions with destruction of the market built into their fictional DNA.

          No. On two county. They're not legal fictions; legally, and by no other measure do they exist. They're programmed to try to maximize all profits within the bounds of the law(sometimes that last part gets away from them), the destruction of markets is just a side-effect.

          LK

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by elrous0 (869638) *
      Time-Warner has been doing this for years. This is just the latest entry in a long trend of media consolidation (one almost certain to continue)
      • Only thing: I think TWC was spun off into a separate company, and isn't actually controlled by Time Warner.
      • by steelfood (895457)

        I replied elsewhere about this stating that Time Warner just spun off their internet divisions (Time Warner Cable and AOL) and their cable divison (Time Warner Cable).

        Afterwards, I did a quick lookup on Wikipedia, and based on what's there it seems controlling both content and distribution is a far more commonplace practice than most people realize. Sure, it's usually through subsidaries and no one company has a 100% controlling stake, but it seems that all of the content companies are or have been in bed w

    • ..are not always bad, but if they aren't well regulated/watched, free market goes out the window and it never turns out good for the consumer.

  • by fortapocalypse (1231686) on Monday June 21, 2010 @02:52PM (#32644410)
    So what? I don't have Comcast.
    • by somaTh (1154199) on Monday June 21, 2010 @02:57PM (#32644464) Journal
      So, it's okay for Comcast and NBC to merge then? What about Fox and Cox? Would you claim that rocks?
      • by jgagnon (1663075) on Monday June 21, 2010 @03:00PM (#32644502)

        They could have a very successful Furry channel together...

      • What about Fox and Cox?

        Fox already has plenty of cocks in their news division. I don't see what such a merger would get them...
      • by TheSync (5291)

        "Fox and Cox" is pretty funny! But FOX has been linked up with multichannel programming providers before.

        NewsCorp (which owns the FOX Broadcasting Corporation) already has a 39% stake in BSkyB. Before 2008, NewsCorp held a managing interest in The DirecTV Group (which has now been sold off to Liberty Media). NewsCorp also has a 25% interest in Foxtel (Australia), a 44% interest in SKY Network Television New Zealand, a 45% interest in Sky Deutschland, a 20% interest in Tata Sky (India), as well as outrigh

      • by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Monday June 21, 2010 @04:06PM (#32645292) Homepage

        What about Fox and Cox? Would you claim that rocks?

        That Fox and Cox! That Fox and Cox! I do not like that Fox and Cox. The merger rocks for Fox and Cox. But put them both into a box. And keep them both secured with locks.

  • Let it happen (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jgagnon (1663075) on Monday June 21, 2010 @02:58PM (#32644478)

    I vote to let it happen and then watch it fail. It may take a few years, but it will most certainly fail. If history is any indication, the bigger companies get the more out of touch they get with their customers and the more fragile their success becomes.

    • Re:Let it happen (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Monday June 21, 2010 @03:12PM (#32644650)

      But if you control the entire entertainment and delivery vertical for a population that has only one choice in delivery, then there is no need to be in touch with your customer. Remember ATT? "We're the phone company, we don't have to care."

      • by jgagnon (1663075)

        Until a vocal majority of people stand up to oppose mega corporations they will continue to exist and thrive. The only way, or so it seems at least, to motivate people into action is putting them into a position of desperation. The sooner that happens the better.

      • by pnutjam (523990)
        Comcast is already so out of touch with their customers. They recently started advertising about how nice their installers are and how they wear booties over the boots on your carpet. They have never done this, until AT&T started doing it and competing head-to-head in their market with U-verse.

        What totally pisses me off and sends me into a blind rage is the Ben and Shaq commercials. I would love to know how much those douchebags are getting paid (adding to my cable bill). I've been thinking of wri
    • Then again Time Warner is still kicking.

    • NBC has been out of tune with its customers and viewers for some time.

    • If history is any indication, the bigger companies get the more out of touch they get with their customers and the more fragile their success becomes.

      So then they get too big to fail and it's on to a bailout, subsidies, etc. And then we pay for it again with internet service.

  • If this makes it easier to get Coco back on TV, I'm all for it.
    It'd be pure comedy gold to have Conan turn up as the Cable representative to tear down the Peacock.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday June 21, 2010 @03:05PM (#32644568)
    They apparently think that a glorified letter-writing campaign is a match for the lobbying (aka "bribing") money that a major corporation can throw at Washington. That's almost as adorable as an environmentalist in Texas or Alaska writing his Congressman asking him to oppose big oil. Even if you could get the FCC to listen, the lobbyists would just get their slaves in Congress to override them (just like they did [cnet.com] on net neutrality).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by vxice (1690200)
      Well if 90% of people are against something and lobbyists do buy votes and the voters are angry enough they can vote the representative out of office, something money can't do directly, and he will no longer be in a position to take bribes. Once you think you have no power you're right.
      • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday June 21, 2010 @03:30PM (#32644896)
        You couldn't get 90% of voters to oppose Hitler.
        • by vxice (1690200)
          well since he is dead he might actually be a good politician. Would his corpse have to be found so that it could sit in office? Joke aside you only need 50% +1 to agree that a candidate is the best option. Less than that with alternative voting methods.
      • by russotto (537200)

        Once you think you have no power you're right.

        The inverse, however, is not true.

      • by jythie (914043)
        Yeah, but it represents a very asymetric situation. It takes a huge percentage of voters to override the influence of what is essentially a few hundred people. Esp when those few hundred people ALSO control the primary mechanisms at raising awareness/urgency of an issue, i.e. media access.
        • by vxice (1690200)
          It does represent a asymmetric situation but what is not equal is time. Companies have people who work full time understanding the issues at hand your average citizen doesn't. So either make everyone pay attention or appoint official political analysts that work full time to understand the issues at hand and how they affect the public. Maybe you could even elect them? recurse. Either way you can't say ooh its too hard or I'm tired you have to pay attention and chose politicians that you feel are respon
      • by Dhalka226 (559740)

        Well if 90% of people are against something and lobbyists do buy votes and the voters are angry enough they can vote the representative out of office, something money can't do directly, and he will no longer be in a position to take bribes.

        Well that's true, but I think you're underestimating how game-changing the words "angry enough" really are. In addition to how hard it is to get 90% of people to think one way about an issue, there are a few other problems with that fact in practice:

        1. It would have to

    • Indeed, when was the last time Washington blocked a supermerger that forms at our expense? I'm actually asking.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        The FTC blocked a Staples and Office Depot merger in 1997. AFAIK, that was the last time.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by AndersOSU (873247)

        The FTC issues reports [ftc.gov]
        In the FY2008 report they tout:

        One of the Commission’s notable challenges was against the consummated merger of Polypore International and Microporous Products in which the Commission asserted that the February 2008 acquisition reduced competition and raised prices in the markets for multiple types of battery separator film used in the power supplies of various vehicles and in battery backup generators. The Commission also challenged and effectively blocked the proposed merger of

  • Why would New York Governor David Patterson support a merger between two companies primarily invested in video entertainment?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by h4rr4r (612664)

      Maybe he has the vision to see what such a merger would mean? He can clearly see that this could change the market in a big way.

      • by gmhowell (26755)

        I think David Patterson is the only person who could see the value in this. Well, him and Stevie Wonder.

    • by Nukenbar (215420)

      With his negative approval rating, that may be the only way to keep the merger from happening.

  • by leonbev (111395) on Monday June 21, 2010 @03:30PM (#32644900) Journal

    Do you really want these guys taking over several major TV networks?

    They would probably cancel all of the news shows, and replace them video game reviews and badly edited Star Trek reruns.

    • Are there any real news shows left on TV? I know there are multiple 24-hour "News" channels and plenty of "News" shows, but do any actually engage in responsible reporting?
    • by tepples (727027)

      They would probably cancel all of the news shows

      As far as I can remember, the FCC requires broadcast TV stations to carry news and E/I broadcasts. Or are you trying to say NBC will move to cable?

    • by Herkum01 (592704)
      > >They would probably cancel all of the news shows, and replace them video game reviews and badly edited Star Trek reruns. >

      You make it sound like this is a bad thing!

    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      No they would introduce new quality reality shows like "Who Wants to Eat Sheep Balls?", "Dancing With the Skanks", and "Passed-out Former Celebrities Face-down in Their Own Vomit."
  • Comcast Sports Net Chicago / Comcast Sports Net Chicago + and + 2 is good but that is the only comcast channel that spend much time viewing comcast only owns 20% of it. I did see the NHL plays offs on VS but that is small next to most of the other carp on that channel. G4 has some good VOD stuff but Comcarp killed most of the good stuff there.

  • Agree with the FCC (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Monday June 21, 2010 @03:36PM (#32644982)
    Given Comcast's strong anti-net neutrality stance and propsensity towards censorship, I agree with the FCC. The merger should be blocked because it does not serve a really good purpose. It just creates a giant media conglomerate with far reaching arms into government. Comcast and NBC Universal should remain separate entities.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Just Some Guy (3352)

      The merger should be blocked because it does not serve a really good purpose.

      Erm, what? I think the merger should be blocked, too, but not because "it does not serve a really good purpose". People and corporations do a lot of things that seem rather dumb to me, but I find the idea of stopping them on that reason alone to be pretty scary.

  • Or something like that.

  • In a letter sent to the FCC Monday (PDF), the groups argue the new $30 billion entity would have unprecedented control over the media landscape, raising antitrust concerns.

    The same FCC that's trying to regain control of the internet and tax major websites? Where are the concerns over that?

  • "Among the threats listed are the potential for the new media giant to violate net neutrality and favor its own content both on television and online."

    Potential? Yeah, and I have the potential to have to take a piss sometime in the next two days.

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Monday June 21, 2010 @05:50PM (#32646588)

    By NFL rules comcast must keep Sunday Night on ota or at least for teams in the game and there is no why they will the let games go cable / comcast only.

    • by MtViewGuy (197597)

      And there's another good reason for this: it's often by far the highest-rated NFL game of the week. And NBC doesn't have a decent cable network to dump it to, either, unless they want it on USA Network.

  • Once upon a time, movie studios made movies. People had to go to a movie theater to see those movies. The great grandfathers of the current RIAA thought it great to have a system where the studios owned the movies and the theaters. This was good as there was no issue of splitting receipts with the movie house or worrying about that movie house showing someone else's movies (film being open source). At some point, the movie makers were forced to sell off the "tied houses" and since then, there has been a
  • NBC is a free broadcast network. Comcrap is pay cable.
    How well is comcrap going to support/maintain NBC's broadcasting
    given that comcrap wants everyone to subscribe to their crappy
    cable service?

    OTA TV is less compressed than cable/satelite,
    and recording it is legal. MIfiAA lawyers can take
    a hike.

    Yeah, NBC doesn't have much worth watching at the moment,
    but that stuff goes in cycles, and someday NBC will have
    great stuff again. Unless comcrap is allowed to destroy
    NBC forever.

    Clear antitrust, but is anyone p

  • Force the new company to split into 2 companies; Cable only and the other being services, media, etc.
  • Quebecor, one of the largest media company owns Many papers, about 90% of all stand magazines, a TV network and the largest cable company in the province (Videotron). So when the owner's girlfriend has a new show, it's on cell phones, in all the media, on TV, on the ISP's home page, so on. They can control the information. All the news come from the same source, their own press agency. Even worse, about every of their companies have been/are/will be in a lock-out. Of course, since they own about every media

Aren't you glad you're not getting all the government you pay for now?

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