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Citing ACA Study, Sen. Sanders Wants Comcast-NBCU Nixed

Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent aligned with the Democratic Party, sent the Federal Communications Commission a letter urging regulators to reject the proposed Comcast-NBCU merger, saying the deal would create "an enormously powerful, vertically integrated media conglomerate, causing irreparable damage to the American media landscape and ultimately to society as a whole."

In a statement, American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka agreed with Sen. Sanders that the deal would lead to higher costs to consumers and would damage competition in the pay-TV market that regulators have been attempting to nurture for nearly two decades.

"Allowing Comcast Corp. and NBC Universal to merge without efficient and meaningful conditions will cost consumers billions of dollars over the next decade," Polka said.

In his Nov. 15 letter to the FCC, Sen. Sanders cited an ACA study prepared by Dr. William Rogerson, professor of economics at Northwestern University, that showed consumers over the next nine years will pay at least $2.4 billion more for pay-television service as a result of unrestrained pricing power that will flow from the combination of Comcast and NBCU.

"ACA commends Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for recognizing Dr. Rogerson's analysis of the substantial consumer harms that will result from the Comcast-NBCU transaction and for underscoring that Comcast-NBCU will have the incentive and ability to raise prices for `must have' TV programming under its control far above levels the two could charge as individual companies. ACA agrees with Sen. Sanders that the Comcast-NBCU merger `poses substantial new risks not seen in past transactions,' justifying adoption of regulatory mechanisms proposed by ACA that would protect consumers and preserve competition in the least intrusive fashion," Polka added.

In seeking rejection of the merger, Sen. Sanders argued that Comcast has strategically ramped up campaign contributions to politicians to obtain congressional support for the $30 billion transaction.

Although the FCC and the Department of Justice are still reviewing the Comcast-NBCU deal, Sen. Sanders added that Comcast has been appointing new executives to run NBCU ahead of regulatory approval.

"Although Comcast has done little to prove that the proposed merger is in the public interest, it has been busy measuring the drapes at NBC. Despite ongoing review, Comcast has on several occasions announced plans for replacing NBCU's executives with Comcast staff and restructuring of NBCU's senior leadership. These actions suggest a disregard for the important and ongoing agency reviews of the merger-or worse, a belief that Comcast has successfully controlled the federal review process," Sen. Sanders wrote.

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