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ACA Commends Sen. Kohl On Comcast-NBCU Concerns

The American Cable Association commended Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) for urging the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission to give close scrutiny to Comcast Corp.'s planned acquisition of General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal, saying the deal raises anticompetitive concerns that warrant strict conditions, including at least one asset sale.

"ACA believes that the Comcast-NBCU merger would harm competition and consumers without strong and enforceable conditions. ACA applauds Sen. Kohl for suggesting that the FCC impose conditions on the transaction that would ensure that all pay-TV providers have access to Comcast-NBCU programming on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms," American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.

Kohl is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights. He outlined with concerns about the Comcast-NBCU deal in a May 26 letter to the FCC and the DOJ, both of which are reviewing the deal and have the authority to require conditions or effectively block the transaction from taking place.

In his letter, Kohl expressed concern that Comcast-NBCU could frustrate fair competition by withholding or raising the price of cable and broadcast programming it will control. He also voiced concern about the use of retransmission consent as vehicle to raise prices and condition access to "must have" NBC TV stations on the carriage of less-sought-after Comcast-NBCU programming services that rival distributors have no interests in providing to their customers.

Kohl urged the FCC and the DOJ to require that Comcast make any programming or programming channel in which it has a financial interest (including NBC's cable and broadcasting networks) available to any pay-TV provider on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms.

"As the largest pay-TV operator in the country, Comcast-NBCU must not be able to charge itself one price and all other smaller operators a higher price. This is harmful to competition and consumers. The structure of the merger is an issue of great concern that ACA members have addressed with Congress, the FCC and the DOJ, and ACA will continue to do so," Polka added

If the merger were approved unchanged, Comcast's would control NBC's 32 percent stake in Hulu, a popular online video service. In his letter, Kohl said Comcast would have the incentive to ensure that Hulu did not become a competitive threat to its cable properties. Kohl said Comcast-NBCU should be required to divest its Hulu stake within one year.

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