Consumers Union Asks You To Say No To Comcast/NBC Deal

With the clock still ticking on the proposed purchase of NBC Universal by Comcast, our benevolent benefactors at Consumers Union has launched a new website and advertising campaign to step up its efforts to alert the public to the perils of the deal.

Starting this morning, consumers can go to SayNoToComcastNBC.com for more information about how the sale of NBC to Comcast will likely mean less choice and higher cable bills. Additionally, you’ll be able to write directly to the FCC to voice your opinion on the sale.

To publicize the site and draw further attention to the cause, CU is unveiling a 10’x22′ mobile billboard in Washington, D.C., featuring the “cable constrictor” and letting people know, “Don’t Constrict Choice – Reject the Comcast Buyout of NBC.”

The same imagery and message will also be appearing in print and online media aimed at D.C. policymakers.

Says Consumers Union policy counsel Parul P. Desai:

Regulators should reject Comcast’s buyout of NBC because it’s a bad deal for consumers and competition… In this economy, consumers should not be at risk of higher prices for cable and Internet service. While the companies have said they won’t engage in anticompetitive practices, Comcast has earned deep distrust. Comcast routinely raises rates, requires customers to buy packages of channels they don’t watch to get the few they do, and slaps stiff penalties on people who want to move to another broadband company for better service. Allowing Comcast to take over the content by NBC Universal could mean consumers would pay higher prices and have fewer media choices.

So if you want to voice your opinion about the Comcast/NBC deal, head over to SayNoToComcastNBC.com.

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Comments

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  1. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    Who did the artwork for this campaign? That’s sensational :D

    But yeah, Boo on NBC-cast. >_>

  2. obits3 says:

    But wouldn’t life be simpler if one company owned everything?

  3. Griking says:

    Does anyone really believe that there’s any chance at all that this merger won’t be approved? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like it either but it seems like a technicality at this point. Didn’t the companies already informally merge a lot of their operations?

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      As far as I know, the gubmint is still investigating the merger for Antitrust Violations…

    • Bativac says:

      Yeah, I don’t think there’s anything we can do to keep it from happening. Eventually Comcast and Clear Channel will own all media.

    • oldwiz65 says:

      It will happen and nothing can stop it. Comcast and NBC have given the congressmen enough money to make sure that the deal goes through. In most countries this would be considered bribery, but here it’s called lobbying. There will be conditions attached, but they will be totally toothless and Comcast/NBC will simply ignore them. They contributed enough to the incoming Republicans so that when they ignore the conditions nothing will happen.

  4. Hoss says:

    The merger will sail through and NBC will be better for it (not to mention GE)

  5. TuxthePenguin says:

    Now, I actually went over to to the website and read through the reasons they give for why the merger should be rejected.

    “…free NBC content may disappear” – how is this any harm to the consumer? This is like complaining when a company has a sale and the sale ends. The company is giving away its product for free. It can choose to stop doing so whenever they feel like it. Especially if, as many here brag, that its possible to cut the cable cord and get all this stuff online for free. NBC (if whatever form it exists) has the right to monetize their intellectual property. They do the free stuff as outreach/advertising. If they find that this becomes too large of a cost (ie, eats up too much revenue) then it is their right, pre- or post-merger, to remove it.

    “Cable rates also could increase…” – one, this is going to happen anyway, merger or not. But this hints at the one possible (good) ground for rejecting the merger – Comcast would have access to NBC for essentially free on a consolidated financial statement (expense on one side cancels the revenue on the other). It could then push the price up on others… I still don’t know how to wrap my mind around this, but there is still a conflicting in motives – the NBC side would want its shows on as many services as possible to maximize ad revenue. Comcast would want to restrict NBC to its direct competitors to get a leg up. In the end, I don’t think the FCC would allow Comcast to black out NBC on its competitors. We have a regulator here to keep the marketplace “fair” – shouldn’t some of the pressure be put on them to reign in these excesses, even in the current environment?

    Now, to the letter itself…

    “The combination of NBC’s content with Comcast’s distribution network would create a media giant of unmatched size and scope that will control the market in my area and leave me at its mercy.” What percentage of country has no other options than cable? IE, what area cannot also be served by Dish/Direct TV, etc? This rolls into the follow argument “If this media giant is approved there will be even less of a chance that new cable competitors will enter the market”… but aren’t most local cable companies made monopolies by the municipalities that they bid a contract with? So the lack of competition for most – I know every place I’ve ever lived in Texas only had one option for cable – is set by government fiat, not monopolistic power?

    The final argument I find almost ironic given the previous arguments – “And it’s likely the best NBC programming will disappear into high-priced tiers only for cable subscribers, as Comcast seeks to maximize its profits.” So wait… you just argued a pro-market stance that allowing this monopoly to exist is a bad thing, but then you argument a anti-market that it might then use its freedom to try and make more money? But this ability isn’t just limited to a post-merger NBC, it could be made today by any cable company. Why couldn’t Comcast/Time Warner decide today to move SyFy to a premium tier to make more money? I assume its due to the contracts it has with the providers… but here we are again – if the post-merger company begins to play differently with its competitors, we have a government agency to step in… the FCC.

    I guess the reason I can’t agree here is that of the arguments that are exclusive to a post-merger Comcast/NBC, there is a government regulator there to ensure that monopolistic power isn’t used to manipulate the market. It seems that the real fear here is that the government regulator won’t be able to do its job…

    • ldub says:

      Yes – the larger/more money a corporation is/has, the harder it will be for the government to regulate it. The fewer choices there are re: how I get a product or service, the lower the quality of that product/service is while at the same time the cost of that product/service increases. That’s been my experience in general.

      • Geekybiker says:

        I think the biggest issue is that comcast is a huge ISP. The only broadband available for many people. Integration with a large content provider means that they have increased incentive to not play nice with net neutrality. If you want video content on the web, I can totally see the merged company degrading performance if it’s not Comcast’s or NBC’s content.

  6. ldub says:
  7. georgi55 says:

    Signed and added this bit as well:

    A recent example is XM Radio and Sirius radio merger. They promised lower priced plans and no price increase, however the reality is that they are now charging a separate “royalty” fees that bring the total cost up than before merger, as well as removing features that were available pre-merger like online listening and charging additional fees for them. When I looked at the numbers the increase in my monthly bill was over 60% – from $26.96 to $43.88 just to keep same number of radio and features. The same thing will happen with cable industry if you let this happen!

    • ldub says:

      Wait……. a corporation made a promise about lower costs and then wiggled their way around said promise so as to actually cost you more in the end???? I’m flabbergasted!

      Seriously, folks…. When are people going to learn? And if Consumer’s Union says it’s a bad deal for the consumer you can believe it.

    • Griking says:

      How are you paying $43 a month for Sirius? So you have multiple accounts?

      I purchased a lifetime subscription a year or so price increases don’t effect me for now.

  8. jason in boston says:

    But what if there is nothing worth watching on NBC? Nothing of value is lost?

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      NBC controls more than just the NBC channels though…

      • jason in boston says:

        I have looked at NBC/Universal’s catalogue of networks and movies. The only thing I would ever be upset with is BSG. However, there is a box set deal today on Amazon so I will maintain my statement. YMMV.

        • PunditGuy says:

          You’re missing out on some pretty good USA Network content. “Psych” and “Burn Notice” hold my attention better than most of the programming the major nets have been putting out recently.

          • jason in boston says:

            I don’t have cable, only business class internet :( Ever since comcast moved all of the basic channels out of clear-qam I have no access to those networks.

            That said, I’ll give them a fair shot on Hulu.

        • ldub says:

          Oh, well… as long as YOUR current needs are being met, I guess there’s nothing to be concerned about.

          • jason in boston says:

            Isn’t that the point of a comment?

            • ldub says:

              Not necessarily. Some of us like to think about and consider the effects of different consumer laws, corporate and business decisions, and the like not only on ourselves in the short term, but also the effects *on other people*, and on us and other *in the long term*.

              Hope I’m not freaking you out or anything.

  9. Megladon says:

    Comcast Starts Online Video ‘Toll Booth,’ Netflix Supplier Says. Check out this url for yesterdays news at dslreports.com Comcast has already started charging for you to access content you already pay for!

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-11-30/comcast-starts-online-video-toll-booth-netflix-web-partner-level-3-says.html

    Comcast, the largest U.S. cable TV company, has set up an Internet “toll booth,” charging Level 3 whenever customers request content, the Broomfield, Colorado-based company said in a statement yesterday.

    So much for net-neutrality

  10. Tim says:

    Huh. Consumers Union is launching this campaign in DC, the one place where we DON’T have representatives or senators to write to.

  11. UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

    I’ll sign this petition, but only because it makes me feel good about myself. It won’t actually do anything.

  12. Macgyver says:

    All CU are saying is that these things may happen. But they don’t say why they think that it will. Comcast have no reason to move anything to a higher tier.

    With Hulu, why would they start charging?
    They have been giving access to Fancast for years, for free. Fancast has some programming that you can only watch if you’re a customer, but that’s not the whole site. More then 90% of it is free. If they give Hulu Plus for free to Comcast subscribers, that’s just a perk for being a subscriber.

    • ldub says:

      “Comcast have no reason to move anything to a higher tier.”

      LOLOL….. seriously? Sure they do – Because they CAN (or they will be able to if they are not stopped by the feds). They’re already trying to make people pay more for Netflix access – see my post and someone else’s above.

    • Sword_Chucks says:

      fancast for free if you pay for comcast tv.

      Acquiring NBC makes it easier to stop providing free content and start charging for everything. Its capitalism, make money off everything.

  13. vastrightwing says:

    I know many of you will think I’m a nut, but here goes… I say, let them merge. Let Comcast buy all the media outlets they want. It isn’t going to matter. Either people will pay or they won’t. Entertainment is a luxury: it’s something you do when there’s nothing else to do. Consumers ultimately determine the price. Put another way, Apple + AT&T have determined you will pay what ever they want you to pay, so they keep jacking the price higher and higher. At some point, they won’t sell any more iThingys and the price will go down. When Comcast merges with NBC+ABC+CBS, cable rates will go up until people drop the service and we’re already seeing that happen. Comcast (in my opinion) has already maxed out the price of entertainment to the point where people are leaving. Comcast buying NBC or what ever isn’t going to change a thing. There is plenty of competition, you just have to look beyond standard offerings. I’ve dropped out already. As far as I’m concerned, they can raise cable rates a hundred times and it won’t affect me at all.

    The solution will be that content producers (at some point) will bypass the networks and go direct to the consumers. It may not look that way now, but it will happen. And the higher Comcast jacks its cable prices, the sooner it will occur. So I say, bring it on Comcast, buy all the networks while you can.

    • jabberwockgee says:

      Monopoly pricing gives higher prices to fewer people. Not only does this transfer surplus from consumers to producers, it also REDUCES THE AMOUNT OF SURPLUS. Most people in our society have some idea of fairness, so when a firm likes to charge monopoly prices because they increase their profits even though the amount of enjoyment to the general populace is decreased, most people get upset.

      Either you don’t understand fairness, you don’t understand economics, or you work for/own stock in Comcast/one of the to-be-merged companies.

  14. Sword_Chucks says:

    Where’s comcast bonnie for this one?
    The company is evil and wrong. They just demanded a large sum of money from Level 3 (internet backbone provider) to allow netflix traffic into Comcast’s network. That’s just wrong. I hate that they have a local monopoly, won’t provide me service and I can’t get service from another company. Luckily I don’t need the ground infrastructure for internet thanks to Clearwire. The downside is Comcast invested in Clearwire, so I’m not entirely free from them. They lost a customer for life after their stupid shenanigans and my apartment, and only proved to me that I can live without cable TV, with the exception for discovery channel.
    I hope the FCC fines them up the ass for what they did to Level 3, Netflix and their customers. I also hope the DoJ and congress allows the FCC to do what the FCC was originally founded to do, which is smack Comcast in the back of the head for trying these things.

  15. maruawe says:

    This has all the signs of a monopoly play on the part of Comcast . They are charging for movies streamed on the network now. if this goes through we can look forward to a network of charges on free tv stations around the country.

  16. zentex says:

    sended. eff comcast!

  17. Geekybiker says:

    Hello vertical integration. Hopefully the FCC will say no.

  18. peebozi says:

    the free market will work this one out…and if you don’t like comcast of verizon then simply raise a hundred billion dollars +/- and install your own cable throughout the country…except, unlike comcast, et al, you won’t be subsidized by taxpayers.