Sen. Al Franken joins Bloomberg's fight against Comcast
Bloomberg LP has recruited Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) in its war against cable giant Comcast Corp.
Franken, who was very vocal about his concerns regarding Comcast's takeover of NBCUniversal when the deal was being reviewed by the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice, sent a letter to each pushing for prompt action in the Bloomberg-Comcast matter.
At issue is where Comcast places Bloomberg's business channel on its cable systems. Bloomberg argues that a condition of the FCC's order approving the Comcast-NBCUniversal deal requires the cable company to put the Bloomberg business channel near its competitors, especially NBCU's CNBC. In June, Bloomberg filed a complaint against Comcast with the FCC.
Comcast has countered that Bloomberg misunderstood the FCC order and told the agency last month that the business news conglomerate was trying to "extract preferential channel placement on Comcast’s cable systems through regulatory gamesmanship."
In a statement, Comcast said, "like Bloomberg, a $30 billion media company, Sen. Franken misinterprets the 'neighborhooding' condition in the FCC's Comcast NBCUniversal transaction Order."
The cable company has also argued that if it is "forced to do what Bloomberg wants ... millions of customers will be subject to disruption and confusion required by massive channel realignments across the country, all to benefit an already thriving, $30-billion media company. It is hard to imagine a more anti-consumer result that would be less in the public interest."
In his letter, Franken said he fears that "Comcast's alleged attempt to maneuver around the neighborhooding condition in the merger order is only the beginning of a series of lengthy and expensive battles over conditions, and I urge the Commission to act promptly if Comcast is in violation of this or any other conditions in its merger order.”
That Bloomberg has Franken in its corner comes as no surprise to those who followed the regulatory approval process of Comcast's deal with NBCUniversal. Franken was one of the harshest critics of the marriage, constantly warning about the market power the two companies would possess and the negative effect that would have on independent producers and programmers.
However, while Franken received lots of attention for his scrutiny of the deal, many of the requirements he sought to put on the companies were not among the final conditions for the approval of the merger.
-- Joe Flint
Photo: Sen. Al Franken. Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press