The Writers Guild of America East is an opponent of media consolidation and is opposed to an increase in consolidation that will result if Comcast and NBCU become one as planned. It says it will result in fewer production companies producing less and less public affairs programming. To stem this erosion, it is asking for a $100M public affairs payment from Comcast as a condition of merger approval.
The money would be paid over the course of ten years, amounting to $10M per year, according to TheHill.com. WGAE made the suggestion to key officials at both FCC and DOJ.
WGAE’s Michael Winship argues that consolidation enables companies to make more extensive use of their own in-house programming resources, which has the equal and opposite effect of reducing the number of independent sources. With less sources comes less diversity of viewpoint.
Comcast responded, saying it has pledged to make sure that it is producing local news and information content, and has further pledged to make room on its distribution platforms for independent content producers.
RBR-TVBR observation: WGAE can ask, but we have a hard time believing that even the most seasoned and entrenched bureaucrat in the history of government institutions would try to enforce a condition like this. If the merger is going to be bad enough to warrant such a payment, a prudent bureaucrat will be more likely to simply move to dismiss the deal.