Coalition Opposes Comcast-NBCU

A group of 21 businesses and public interest organizations has formed The Coalition for Competition in Media to oppose Comcast’s bid to acquire 51 percent of NBC Universal. On its Web site, competitioninmedia.org, the group claims that Comcast’s controlling stake in NBCU would give it “unprecedented power nationally and in local cable markets around the country.”

Some of the members of the new coalition include: Bloomberg, National Telecommunications Cooperative Association, Free Press, Writers Guild of America and Media Access Project.

The coalition today launched its campaign to stop the merger, running an ad in Chicago newspapers as the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held its field hearing in that city. The ad lists all the media properties Comcast would own or control via the deal.

“It’s far too much power for one cable company. Given the serious threat Comcast’s plans pose to consumers and fair competition in the media market, the FCC and Justice Department must act to use their authority to protect the public interest,” the coalition said in a statement on its site.

Comcast is not sitting idly by. Joe Waz, svp, external affairs and public policy counsel for the cable giant, took the opportunity yesterday to preempt the opposition on his blog.

“Today, competition is fierce in all of the markets in which Comcast and NBCU operate,” Waz wrote. “For example in the state of Illinois, there are numerous other video providers from which consumers can choose, including AT&T, DirecTV, Dish Network, WOW and RCN. Content competition is fierce as well, even after the joint venture is completed, about six out of every seven channels on Comcast cable systems will still not be affiliated with Comcast. In Chicago, that means that out of about 190 channels in our most popular cable package, only about 30 will be affiliated with the new company.”

Next week, the Federal Communications Commission is holding its field hearing on the merger in Chicago.