The American Cable Association continued to press for meaningful conditions on the Comcast-NBCU merger during recent meetings with senior Federal Communications Commission officials. The FCC and the Department of Justice are reviewing the $30 billion deal and are expected to announce decisions by the end of this year or perhaps early next year.
On Sept. 20, top ACA officials met separately with Rosemary Harold, Legal Advisor to Commissioner Robert M. McDowell, and Joshua Cinelli, Legal Advisor to Commissioner Michael J. Copps, to explain ACA's proposed conditions and remedies first unveiled in an August filing. The FCC has five-voting members and three votes in support are needed to approve the merger.
Present at the FCC meetings from ACA were President and CEO Matthew M. Polka and Vice President of Government Affairs Ross J. Lieberman. The two were joined by William P. Rogerson, Professor of Economics at Northwestern University, and attorneys Barbara S. Esbin of Cinnamon Mueller and Tom Cohen of Kelly Drye & Warren, to underscore the economic harms of the transaction and the rationale and legal precedents in support of ACA's narrowly tailored, merger-specific conditions that would expire after nine years.
The next day, the ACA team met with John Flynn, who is Senior Counsel for Transactions to FCC Chairman Genachowski. The session also included 17 FCC staff members of the working team that is conducting the review of the Comcast/NBC Universal deal.
In its advocacy, ACA has called on regulators to impose conditions that will prevent Comcast-NBC Universal post-merger from using its dominance in the programming and distribution arenas to harm consumers and competitors, including ACA members, by raising prices substantially above competitive levels. ACA has proposed a slate of conditions designed to reduce Comcast-NBCU's incentive and ability to exploit its vertical and horizontal power to the detriment of smaller, independent rivals.
Among other things, ACA's conditions would require Comcast-NBCU to sell NBC TV stations and regional sports networks (RSNs) on a stand-alone basis, meaning NBC stations and RSNs could not be bundled with carriage of any other video programming network.
ACA is also asking that Comcast-NBCU be prohibited from requiring any pay-TV provider with 125,000 video subscribers or less locally to pay a fee for an NBC station or RSN that is 5% greater than the lowest fee paid by any other local pay-TV distributor -- including Comcast itself -- for the market's NBC signal or the area's RSN.
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