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Sen. Al Franken comes out swinging against Comcast-NBC deal

Doesn't look like comedian turned senator Al Franken is planning a return to NBC's "Saturday Night Live" anytime soon.

In his opening remarks about the proposed Comcast-NBC deal at a hearing held by the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, Franken (D-Minn.) ripped into the deal and the risks it could present to not only consumers but media competition as well.

Franken, who was a regular on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" for years and also had a short-lived sitcom on the network called "Lateline" in the late 1990s, dismissed the claims made by Comcast and NBC Universal that the partnering of the nation's largest broadband and cable provider with the entertainment giant would not harm competitors or the public.

FRANKEN "You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t trust these promises, and that is from experience in this business," Franken snapped.

Franken noted that similar promises were made by NBC when it was supporting the gutting of federal regulations that limited the amount of programming a broadcast network could own. Known as the financial interest and syndication rules, the Federal Communications Commission removed them over a decade ago after years of debate between producers and networks. Getting rid of the so-called fin-syn rules cleared the way for the mergers of Walt Disney and ABC as well as Viacom and CBS.

At the same time, most independent production companies were either gobbled up or went out of business. Today, the majority of programming is made by the big broadcast networks and studios.

Franken even pointed to NBC General Counsel Rick Cotton during his opening remarks and accused NBC of demanding that producers give them ownership in shows if they wanted the shows to get on the air.

"If an independent producer wants to get show on, it is routine practice, and you guys know it, for the network to demand at least part ownership of the show," Franken said. "Lateline" was produced by Paramount, NBC and Franken's own company.

Franken's remarks have provided the biggest fireworks of the day so far. Earlier Thursday morning, Comcast and NBC Universal chief executives Brian Roberts and Jeff Zucker faced a mix of hardball and softball questions about the deal from the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet.

Lots of the same ground is being covered in the two hearings. There is great concern from lawmakers about media concentration, discrimination against small and independent programmers, and programming available on free television migrating to cable.

It was pretty easy to tell who was on team Comcast - NBC Universal and who wasn't in the House hearing, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who is chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, said Comcast needs to "ensure independent writers, directors and producers won't be harmed" by the deal to acquire majority control of General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal.

Also wary was Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who expressed fears that the deal will stifle competition and end up costing consumers.

Skeptical of the concerns of media watchdogs was Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), who said he was more interested in talking about the deal and not a bunch of "what if" scenarios.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Sen. Al Franken. Credit: Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg

Comments () | Archives (105)

This whole "issue" is as lame as the idea of this HUMP actually being a Senator!

Actually, I never thought I'd say this about Al Franken, but if his leadership does stop this merger and does break up this monopoly, I think I'm going to have to start admiring the HUMP. Who would have thought this guy could rise to the occasion? He's starting to look like he's seriously interested in making a contribution to this country.

Al Franken is the biggest jerk and the whole country is laughing at him not with him. Let's face it he won the election because it was fixed.

People who don't respect Senator Franken's intellect do so at their peril. In his short stint as a senator he's proven himself to be a serious policy wonk and not above making people who make stupid comments look like the fools they are.

Franken is nothing more than a bloviating blowhard.

Look, I'm a conservative. But I'm also a cable consumer who's seen how Comcast utterly screws its customers when it has a virtual monopoly. Letting that dysfunctional company obtain any more market power is nuts.

As much as I think Al Franken is a leftist, nancy-boy buffoon overcompensating for lack of masculine equipment, I'd have to agree that Comcast should not be allowed to gain more market share.

I'm kind of liking this Franken dude. A little rough around the edges but he's doing alright.

If Franken keeps it up, I may forget that he is a carpet-bagging, bottom-
feeder who was handed the election by ACORN and the Dem machine
in Mini-soda.......but I doubt it. The geek causes me visceral discomfort.
And is proof of the pre-adolescent mentality of Mini-sodan voters.

This seems atypical for a supposed "Socialist", right? He is promoting competition in free markets.

Ed Markey (D-MA) said he was worried about rising costs? Is he brain dead? In 1996, HIS cable bill was sold to us on the theory it would reduce costs.

Fees are up roughly 500% since then. WTF?

It's hard to respect a guy who lambasted Senator Lieberman, by not giving him an additional moment so Lieberman could finish his point. Also it's hard not to respect a guy who stole an election by finding "uncounted ballots" in a trunk of a car a couple of weeks after the election. Plus, a guy who does not pay his taxes until he runs for office and "clears up" the unfortunate oversight.

However, he does represent the many small production companies in Hollywood who are having a very difficult time producing their content and having to give up a major portion of the ownership of the show if they want to get it on the air.

Comcast can decide who gets the more lucrative channel numbers and who gets buried in the high channels. I good compromise here would be to let the merger happen as long as Comcast must offer viewers ala carte purchasing of channels. (it will never happen) however I know a lot of people who hate having to spend money on rights fees for sporting events that they never watch. Plus, Comcast will own over 15-20 channels after the deal is consumated as well as local stations and a movie company. It's a tough decision but maybe Franken is on to something here.

I still do not respect him since he was chosen and not elected.

I'm sorry but I can't move beyond Al Franken's crude behavior and complete and total lack of life experience. He's a freaking clown-boy, a proverbial comedy freak. Actually, now that I think about it, he's the perfect complement to a three ring circus known as the 111th Congress.

I'm a conservative and I believe Franken is right about this one. Media concentration and monopolies might be favored by Statist Dems and some bought off Republicans but such business arrangements do not represent true conservative values.

Failed comedian, Failed Raido host now moving on to be Failed Senator.

Now that just FUNNY.

Look, anyone with half a brain stands out in DC like a sore thumb!

Stuart Smalley is only showing a pair so he can get re-elected.

A scroad, a putz of the worse kind..... Mini-sotans are stoopid.

Remember Jesse? whew.......

Who is this man...sounds like a SNL skit...Franklin sounds like Bush - Rahm get the dead fish in the mail and HURRY.
Franklin has gone so far left he is a right-winger now - or he took the red pill by mistake...he obviously misspoke.

Run Franky Run!

Way to go, Al. You are one tough cookie. Don't let the name-calling derelicts get you down.

Although not a fan of Franken, I do admire how he has risen above the medocrity of the rest of the intellectually challanged scumbags in Congress. Way to send a message to the MSM monopolies and their evil ways.

Maybe he's learning a lesson from Massachusetts (bless those folks) to wise up about creating businesses. Competitive market is the best environment for better consumer products/prices/satisfaction. But I'm not going to say he turned a new leaf yet. From the shenanigans in his election in Minnesota, I'm not very trusting of the guy. As Elmer Fudd would say when he saw Bugs Bunny, "I wouwd be vewy vewy cawefuw wif that wascaw wabbit." Everyone should too.

It's not atypical. Democrats traditionally believe in limiting media consolidation and increasing competition in the media marketplace.

This 1946 classroom video explains why: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-461990723502527420

The entire video is worth it, but the bit from the 6:30 point on directly references why media consolidation is frowned upon.

None of these Democrats voiced such strong concerns over 0bama's takeover of Government Motors.

Wow what a festival of ignorance.

Al Franken is stupid. NBC is in last place in just about every category, and with the rise of internet tv (in the future) cable and satelite is going to be very a old school way to watch tv. This not worth getting excited about.

I don't like the way Franken won his seat -- too many questions. However, after reading his comments on the Comcast/NBC merger, a lot of them seem more like a personal axe to grind than anything else.

Combine that with the joke of independence in Hollywood -- when it's more the unions you have to worry about than the networks -- and his entire premise is suspect.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste huh Al?

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