Members of the communications watchdog community continue to call for strong conditions on the wedding of Comcast and NBC Universal, and one minority-oriented group is actually charging the FCC with incompetence.
The FCC has said a major concern as they considered a conditional approval of the deal was fair access by competitors both to programming that will be controlled by the merged entity, as well as access to the distribution platforms it will control.
Public interest groups such as Media Access Project, Free Press and Public Knowledge say they have to go farther than that, and make sure Comcast/NBCU does not use its market power to jack up prices paid by consumers, or to disadvantage their media competitors. In fact, they note, using various crowbars against competitors could be one way to hit consumers in the wallet. One way would be to hold out for increases in retransmission fees for NBC O&O broadcast television stations.
Meanwhile, the National Coalition of African American Owned Media (NCAAOM) is taking the FCC strongly to task for being ready to approve the merger before completing its Triennial Review, which is supposed to consider “identifying and eliminating…market entry barriers for entrepreneurs and other small businesses….”
NCAAOM denounced the FCC as being “incompetent and unfair.”
“FCC Chairman Genachowski’s shameful disregard to fulfill the statutory mandate of the Communications Act is utterly appalling and frustrating on many fronts, especially in light of Chairman Genachowski’s recent submission of the Comcast-NBCU merger order to the FCC Commissioners prior to filing the overdue Triennial Report to Congress,” said Stanley E. Washington, President and CEO, NCAAOM. “The FCC had sufficient time to produce the report and their flagrant disregard of heir critical obligations to the law is no longer tolerable. Furthermore, it is unfortunate that the current FCC failed to address the last report to advance minority ownership and eliminate barriers for entry but consequently marginalized minorities voices.”
“Moreover,” added Washington, “the Memos of Understanding with various minority groups are intentionally biased, flawed and disingenuous. A minimum of 50 channels must be set aside for wholly-owned African American media companies.”