With regulatory conditions tied to Comcast’s 2011 purchase of NBCUniversal having quietly expired over the weekend, the American Cable Association is calling on the FCC to check what it feels are the conglomerate’s destructive vertically integrated powers.
“In 2011, the FCC and DOJ each found that Comcast’s acquisition of NBCU would harm competition by combining NBCU’s ‘must have’ video programming with Comcast’s distribution network,” ACA President and CEO Matthew Polka said in a statement. “The FCC and DOJ permitted Comcast to buy NBCU—but only if the parties abided by a series of conditions that ostensibly would alleviate the competitive harms.”
Polka noted that the ACA participated in that review, and “although we preferred even stronger governmental restrictions, we believed that the conditions imposed could help prevent the worst harms.”
The FCC, Polka added, should reconcile the Justice Department’s recent blocking of AT&T’s proposed Time Warner Inc. acquisition.
“By all accounts, the programming controlled by Comcast-NBCU is at least as ‘must have’ as the programming that AT&T would acquire under its proposed merger with Time Warner. Comcast-NBCU’s national bundle, major broadcast networks and regional sports networks rank among the most essential networks that distributors must carry to attract subscribers,” Polka said.
He called for the FCC to strengthen program access rules, making binding arbitration available in some licensing disputes. Polka also called for the correction of the FCC’s “flawed definition of a ‘buying group’ for program access purposes, allowing the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC) to qualify and file program access complaints and thus offering small and medium-sized MVPDs that rely on the NCTC to negotiate programming deals the same level of protection as large MVPDs, which was the intent of Congress.”