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FCC's Copps talks tough about Comcast-NBC Universal deal

December 3, 2009 |  2:03 pm

Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps, an outspoken critic of media consolidation, issued a statement about Comcast's announced deal to take control of General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal that leaves little doubt about what he's thinking.

“Some may have thought the era of media consolidation — fewer huge companies controlling more of the nation’s media assets — was behind us. This transaction proves those analysts wrong. The push to combine content and distribution continues and, as the economy recovers, we will see more proposed media industry combinations.

“While I look at each proposed transaction on its individual merits, my long-standing skepticism about the harms imposed by so few controlling so much persists. And this particular transaction raises a multitude of important questions: What is its impact on the prices consumers will pay? Would the combination mean more newsrooms (but perhaps fewer reporters) controlled by one entity?  How would the transaction affect minorities and diversity on the airwaves?  Would this merger lead to fewer voices on both traditional and new media?  Does the nature of the transaction make even more urgent the need for FCC network neutrality rules? What about the future of competition in the several markets these companies serve? The list of questions and consequences goes on. Clearly this proposal requires close and comprehensive Commission review. The lodestar for this review must be the public interest.

“I look forward to broad stakeholder reaction to today’s announcement — and, indeed, every citizen has a stake here. I am anxious to hear more from the parties to the deal about how they believe the proposed transaction, as presently constructed, advances the public interest.  It will come as no news to them that they face a very steep climb with me.” 

Copps, a Democrat, is the first FCC commissioner to make any public statements on the deal. The office of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski issued a statement this morning after the merger was announced, saying: “The FCC will carefully examine the proposed merger and will be thorough, fair, and fact-based in its review.”

-- Joe Flint

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