Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) is not at all pleased with the consolidated state of the broadcasting industry, especially at the top of the food chain, where she notes that very few companies control the lion’s share of prime time programming. That makes her leery of yet another merger such as the proposed acquisition of NBCU by Comcast.
At the House Judiciary hearing on the merger in Los Angeles, Waters went on a statistics spree. Starting out, she said, “Indeed, due to the deregulation and federal agencies’ rubber-stamped approval of media mergers, today, only five companies own the major broadcast networks; 90 percent of the top 50 cable networks produce three-quarters of all prime time programming, and control 70 percent of the prime time television market share. In 2007, minorities owned just 3.2 percent of the U.S. television stations and 7 percent of the nation’s full power radio stations, despite comprising more than 34 percent of the population.”
She continued, “Today, Comcast Corporation has acquired massive reach and influence on its path to becoming the nation’s largest cable company, whose first quarter profits this year reached $9.2 billion (In 2008, the company collected over $34.3 billion in revenue). Comcast owns cable franchises in 39 states; it has 23.9 million customers; 15.3 million high-speed Internet customers, and 7 million voice customers.”
She thanked the FCC for its leadership in reviewing the merger, and for scheduling its own field hearing (pegged for Chicago on 7/13/10). She called on both the FCC and DOJ to go over the details thoroughly. She specifically said she hopes that the DOJ “…is conducting a labor-intensive review, considering the impact this merger stands to have on competition and consumers.”
In what may come as a surprise to many who think she is automatically in favor of deep-sixing the merger, she said, “While I am not opposed to this merger, I have long maintained that the Comcast-NBC merger raises serious questions and should not be rushed through an expedited review process.”
In the end, it seems that Waters would like to see consumers protected and minorities advanced as conditions of the merger. She concluded, “Comcast has advanced various public interest commitments pledging its dedication to preserve competition and involve minorities and underserved populations in all aspects of media programming, production, and distribution. As I understand, today, both Comcast and NBC have released a joint statement outlining their plans for corporate diversity and inclusion. While this is a positive first step, I am anxious to learn more about the proposed plan and how it proposes to meaningfully involve and create opportunities for women and minorities in executive leadership, management, advertising, and programming.”