With its request to extend the commenting deadline shot down by the FCC, Bloomberg LP has filed a letter to the Commission and the Department of Justice officially opposing the Comcast-NBC Universal merger.
Bloomberg was joined in its letter with a handful of other organizations that oppose the deal, including Free Press, WealthTV, the Writers Guild of America, West, the National Consumers League and the Media Access Project, among others.
Today is the last day to file the initial comments on the proposed merger, as the FCC declined to extend the comment deadline. There will be opportunities for third parties to add to their comments down the line.
Write the letter’s authors:
Put simply, as the owner of both content and the means of distributing that content, Comcast will have every reason to undermine the many independent news, sports and entertainment channels that compete with the channels it owns. This discrimination could take many forms: disadvantageous placement on the dial (i.e. lack of neighborhooding), unfair negotiating practices in the context of carriage agreements with local broadcasters and unaffiliated cable networks, outright refusal to carry certain channels and potentially other tactics. Comcast must be expressly barred from using the enormous clout it will possess to cripple its programming competitors.
As B&C‘s John Eggerton notes, the organizations only oppose the merger “as filed.” In other words, if additional measures are put into place by the government, above the voluntary conditions Comcast has already offered, Bloomberg or the other orgs may change their position on the merger.
The full letter to the FCC is after the jump, as well as a response from Comcast.
Comcast executive VP David L. Cohen wrote a blog post on the company’s site today marking the comment deadline. In it he directly addressed some of the concerns brought up by Bloomberg and the other companies:
Some commenters, including certain competitors and programmers, appear to be attempting to use the transaction review process as an opportunity to seek advantages and concessions outside of marketplace negotiations. We believe these efforts should be rejected. For example, there are FCC rules in effect that already ensure that competing programmers’ and distributors interests are protected, and we’ve even pledged to extend the program access rules to our retransmission consent negotiations for the NBCU broadcast stations. Several commenters expressed concerns about how the program access rules work. If those rules need to be fixed, the appropriate place to fix them is in general FCC proceedings that apply to all companies, not by putting discriminatory restrictions on the new Comcast/NBCU.
The Director’s Guild of America also filed a comment in support of the merger.