Last-minute lobbying for and against Comcast-NBC deal as approval nears
With the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department gearing up to give their blessing to Comcast Corp.'s proposed deal to take control of General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal, a slew of last-minute lobbying is being done by both those in favor and those against the marriage of the two media giants.
Last week, Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts met personally with Republican FCC Commissioners Robert McDowell and Meredith Attwell Baker as well as Edward Lazarus, the chief of staff for FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. A few weeks ago, Genachowski's office circulated a draft of conditions it wanted put on Comcast and NBC as part of an approval.
Also last week, 97 members of Congress sent the FCC a letter urging the agency to finish its review of the deal and give it a stamp of approval so that "all Americans can reap the benefits of this transaction as quickly as possible."
The Center for Responsive Politics noted that of the 97 House members who signed the letter, 84 had received donations from Comcast. Of course, it is hardly a headline that politicians often send letters on behalf of companies that coincidentally may have made donations to their political action committees.
And it is also not unusual that many of the House members who signed the letter count Comcast or NBC Universal employees as constituents. Comcast has over 100,000 employees in 39 states.
Comcast competitors also continue to make their case to the FCC. Last week, DirecTV lobbied for conditions on how Comcast negotiates programming agreements with rival distributors. On Monday, the Tennis Channel, one of the more vocal opponents to the deal, once again argued that approval of the marriage of Comcast, the nation's biggest cable and broadband provider, with NBC Universal, a programming giant, would be bad for smaller cable channels. Also continuing to sound warnings about the deal is the American Cable Assn., which represents small cable operators. They fear that Comcast will jack up the prices on its cable networks.
Much has been made aboutthe length of time it has taken the FCC and Justice Department to complete their review of the deal. However, it appears that approval will end up taking just over a year, which is much shorter than the review that the mergers of America Online with Time Warner and satellite radio broadcasters Sirius and XM each endured.
-- Joe Flint
For the record: The original version of this post misidentified Meredith Attwell Baker as Meredith Attwell.