Al Franken Hates The NBC/Comcast Merger More Than Anyone Has Ever Hated Anything

Former NBC employee and current US Senator, Al Franken, has filed an 11-page letter of concern with the FCC stating that he “firmly believe[s] that the ComcastINBCU merger should be rejected. The harms caused by this merger are significant and long lasting. No set of promises or conditions, no matter how well-intentioned, can sufficiently mitigate those harms.”

Having said that, however, he outlines a list of 9 conditions that should be met should the merger go through,because, let’s face it, Comcast doesn’t exactly have a history of sucking at acquiring other businesses.

We’ll summarize them and highlight one we especially like:

  • 1) Comcast should make any programming or channel in which it has a financial interest available on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms to other cable companies.
  • 2) ComcastINBCU should not discriminate against non-ComcastINBC programmers in favor of ComcastINBCU-owned programming.
  • 3) ComcastINBCU should make any online programming or channel in which it has a financial interest available to its competitors on the Internet.
  • 4) ComcastINBCU should be required not to favor its own programming on the Internet, as if net neutrality regulations were in place.
  • 5) A cable subscription should not be required to view NBCU/Comcast content on the Internet.
  • 6) The Commission should establish a fixed shot clock for any access or carriage disputes (like NFL Channel VS Comcast…) involving ComcastINBCU, to ensure that the disputes are handled within a reasonable amount of time and to prevent delays.
  • 7) The ability of ComcastINBCU to bundle its programming when selling it to competitors should be limited, in order to prevent ComcastINBCU from abusing its market power.
  • 8) So that the Commission and the public can ensure that ComcastINBCU is abiding by its commitments to increase the amount of local programming, ComcastINBCU should publicly disclose on a regular basis the amount of local news and public affairs programming aired on each of the owned and operated broadcast stations. As part of this regular disclosure ComcastINBCU should also identify the amount of independently-produced programming aired on each of its owned and operated broadcast stations, as well as on each cable channel controlled by ComcastINBCU post-merger.
  • 9) ComcastINBCU should not be able to use limited distribution agreements to keep content off Internet web sites or distributors. Limited exceptions and modifications to this principle are reasonable as long as the condition truly prevents ComcastINBCU from abusing its market power in order to keep content off the Internet.

In wrapping up the letter, Franken again rips Comcast/NBC a new one.

The proposed ComcastINBCU merger fails to promote competition, diversity or localism,
instead wreaking havoc on those very values. I urge the Commission to examine the numerous
direct and collateral effects this merger would have on consumers and small and rural cable
companies; on people’s cable bills; and on the programming they view on TV and on the
Internet.

Perhaps most of all, I urge the Commission to consider the precedent this merger would set.
Five years from now, we could live in a world in which most Internet Service Providers own
Hollywood studios. The question is whether we’d be all be better off for it.

The answer, in my mind, is clear: we would not.

If you’re into being openly biased against this like we are, and would like to join our lovely parent company, Consumers Union, in politely objecting to the mergepocalypse between the “Worst Company in America” and NBC, here’s a letter you can send.

You can read Franken’s letter here. (PDF)