Consumers Union, web companies object to Comcast/NBC nuptials


One of America’s leading consumer organizations is trying to mobilize its adherents in an attempt to get regulators to turn down cable giant Comcast in its attempt to acquire a controlling interest in NBC/Universal. And they have big allies from the online business community.

Consumers Union is urging consumers to sign a petition that will be sent to the FCC, and to send a message to decision makers.

CU argues that the combined entity will have the power and motivation to move content from NBC’s free television network to more expensive cable-only platforms, to raise the price it chargers for NBCU content to competitors, and in general engage in activities that will increase subscription costs to consumers.

The web companies, which include Google, Yahoo! and among others, saying it puts too much power in the hands of one company and threatens to “smother competition.”

Consumers Union has a click-and-send letter ready to go for individuals who want to send a letter to a specific bureaucrat with review power over the merger (senders are asked to personalize their message). Here is Comcast’s proposed communication:

“Comcast may promise good behavior now, because it wants your vote, but I believe this merger will bring me cable TV price hikes and reduced free over-the-air and Internet TV programming. The best programs will disappear into high priced tiers only for cable subscribers. 

“The combination of NBC’s content with Comcast’s distribution power would create a media giant of unmatched size and scope which, if approved, will control the market in my area. If Comcast raises prices or pulls programs from free channels, I will have no choice but to pay more because there’s almost no competition in the cable market already. I won’t be getting more by paying more–I’ll just pay more for the same or less.

“Annual cable rate increases already run about triple the rate of inflation because I can’t vote with my feet. You must reject mergers if they are bad for consumers, and I believe the proposed marriage of these two media behemoths will result in less competition, higher costs and fewer content choices for my family.

“I urge you to vote NO on the Comcast takeover of NBC/Universal.”