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Comcast, NBC Universal hearing in Congress focuses on priorities

February 4, 2010 |  8:35 am

The U.S. House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet quickly got down to business on Thursday morning as Congress began its review of Comcast Corp.'s proposed acquisition of the controlling interest of NBC Universal.

TINA2 Huge issues are at stake.  Members of the committee said they wanted to make sure the merger would not impinge on NBC News' ability to freely and objectively report the news. Some wanted guarantees that local news programs would prosper and that NBC would remain a free over-the-air broadcasting service.

Others were worried about the effects of media consolidation: Comcast is the nation's largest cable-television and broadband-Internet delivery service, and NBC Universal is the fourth-largest media and entertainment company.  Would the merger lead to increases in cable-TV bills for constituents as a bulked-up Comcast could exert its market influence?

And then there was the sublime.

"We are here to talk about control of America's most precious asset  -- and that, of course, is Tina Fey," deadpanned Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.).

Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts and NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker are scheduled to testify later in the morning and in the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights later in the day. Seated behind Roberts in the committee room was his father, Ralph Roberts, who co-founded Comcast 47 years ago.  

-- Meg James

Photo: Tina Fey the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Jan. 23, 2010. Credit: Paul Buck / EPA