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

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)


Edit Your Comment

  1. The_Fuzz_53 says:

    I dunno, I really, really, REALLY hate the idea of this merger myself.

  2. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    Why is it I can deal with Arnold, Jesse Ventura, even , but I see Franken, and I can’t take him seriously.

    I should note since leaving office and becoming a 9/11 “truth”er and hosting that idiotic conspiracy show on TruTV, I believe he is an idiot.

    • Thassodar says:

      I don’t see how Fred Grandy and Al Franken are related. Franken was born in 1951, Grandy was born in 1948. Grandy was in the House of Rep. for Iowa, Franken is the senator for Minnesota… Am I missing something? Please fill in the blanks.

      • veg-o-matic says:

        I’m with you. This weird “correlation” needs more explanation.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        HTML fail. It should have said ” even Gopher, but I see…” The link was for the people who might not know who Gopher is/was.

    • lehrdude says:

      That letter left me a little verklempt…

    • danmac says:

      Question…do you find John Stewart to be ridiculous and Bill O’Reilly to be the voice of reason? Do you think think that Janeane Garofalo is an idiot and Rush Limbaugh is insightful? If so, maybe it’s just your political bias.

    • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

      I listened to his Air America radio show for years before he entered the public office arena, so in my mind, there were graduated steps from SNL to Senate. I agreed with a lot of what he said on the air and I find myself agreeing with him more now that he’s a Senator, and I find his “frank”ness refreshing.

      I also agree that Ventura is starting to look like a nut job, but that’s what “they” want you to think!

    • peshgel says:

      Franken (imho, of course) seems to be one of the few politicians who is willing to take a stand for what he believes in- not only that, but he will passionately argue (with actual facts, no less!) to convince others. Whether you agree with what he is fighting for or not, he is a good politician who doesnt seem to play the usual games.

      Franken is Minnesota’s new Paul Wellstone.

      • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

        Let’s hope that his career doesn’t end under the same suspicious conditions that Wellstone’s did.

        • peshgel says:

          I still can recall the day of his passing.. people who I never expected to be very political were clearly affected by his loss. To this day – nearly 8 years after his death – many Minnesotans have the bright green “Wellstone!” bumper sticker on their cars.. and a large chunk of them are on cars that were made after his death.. just goes to show you how amazing of a man he was for our state.

    • Hoss says:

      We finally agree. Sonny Bono was even more believable

    • trujunglist says:

      You should read his books. This guy is about as honest as someone can get. He’s smart too.

    • OnePumpChump says:

      I think you need to be more careful about your pronoun use.

    • mrstu says:

      Your post is somewhat misleading… Franken is not the one who “becoming a 9/11 “truth”er and hosting that idiotic conspiracy show on TruTV”, Jessie is.

  3. H3ion says:

    I’m somewhat conflicted in whether cable companies should be deemed to be public utilities in the same manner as electric and gas companies, or whether they should be subject only to market forces, or somewhere in between. I don’t think that the broadcasters (and I include cable companies as broadcasters) should be allowed to own the content providers but since the networks have been granted that right for decades, I’m probably beating a dead horse. What do other posters think? Should cable be regulated the same as electricity with rates and service subject to government control?

    • Ben says:

      I think in this current Age of Information, you can make a good case that media should be considered a utility.

    • SBinVA says:

      Yes. Take my situation, I have 1 option for Cable and Broadband, Comcast. If it weren’t for DirecTV and Dish, I would have no choice except that of Cable or 3 over the air channels.

      DSL isn’t even available in my area, so for high-speed internet, Craptastic is the only choice.

      My point being that if the network itself has the ability to form a monopoly in an area, forcing no competition, “market forces” are irrelevant as they can charge as much as they like until the amount becomes so high that consumers are willing to do without.

    • redwall_hp says:

      We need to do what some of the European countries are already doing: the city/state should roll out fiber-optic lines. ISPs can then, for a fee, make use of those lines. But not exclusively. That way you end up with competition and no single company “owns” everything.

      • mrstu says:

        Exactly… I’m totally for letting the cable co’s be subject strictly to market forces… but it has to work both ways. Right now they’re subject to regulations, yes… but they’re also given exclusive access to vast areas based on agreements with local government. De-regulation is only an option if it works both ways… let them compete, yes, but also MAKE them compete.

  4. Mike says:

    As long as cable companies are monopolies they need to be regulated. Raise your hand if you love your cable company and don’t want choice? Nobody? I thought so.

  5. smo0 says:

    He’s for the people. He’s for the consumer. He represents what our society has boiled down to – we spend our money, we live in a throw-away-replace culture, a place where people get screwed regularly when we pay more for cheaper items – and give our rights to a handful of companies who get to decide what we should and should not have in our lives.

    If you don’t like Al Franken – it’s because he shows you the truth about what you’re a part of.

    He reminds me of me, however. I question EVERYTHING – especially authority. And he has the ability to see when people are about to get screwed a mile away. Something I have. I work for a corporation – and I’m the worst problem for them – I’m a free thinker… free thinkers are the threat of corporate America, remember that the next time you “do what you’re told.”

    • tbax929 says:

      I don’t usually agree with you, but I do on this one. I don’t necessarily always agree with Al Franken, but I can’t help but like the guy. I like that he’s a policy wonk and isn’t afraid to question things publicly. I would trade my senator (McCain) for him in a heartbeat.

    • scoosdad says:

      And don’t forget, he used to be on the inside at NBC and he saw firsthand how their management thought, how they treated employees and clients, and what their corporate morals were like. Some of that will cross-pollinate into a Comcast/NBCU merger, and he doesn’t like it.

    • banndndc says:

      I love Al Franken because he actually takes his job seriously and asks questions at hearings when he wants to know the answer not when he already knows the answer. Franken is probably the only senator who could take about policy without getting briefed on it by his staff. Best senator we have (regardless of ideology) because he’s one of the only ones that treat the job as it should be treated.

    • tiger ali says:

      Egad you’re a self-congratulating buffoon.

    • danmac says:

      I think that his pro-consumer stance is important to point out because it’s easy for people to just give him the “liberal” label and be done with it.

    • tiger ali says:

      My first comment was a bit harsh but:
      We don’t need to know how special you are, or think you are.
      If you’re working for a corporation you’re still feeding the beast; either you accept that, and be a good person on your own, or you live in this fantasy world you seem to exist in.

      You seem a sentence or two away from using the word “sheeple.”
      In short, I doubt you’re in middle school, but your attempts to reassure yourself that you are indeed special and a freethinker, smack of it.

      • smo0 says:

        Whatever works, peanut. I know who I am and I’m damn proud – and it helps when people who are just like me have a say in this world. I’m bottom run and it sucks – but I live with it.

        He is my voice.

        Your politicians are your voice, if they aren’t UR DOIN IT RONG!

      • erratapage says:

        What does accepting it consist of? Does that mean I have to agree with everything the corporate monster does? Or can I do my job, earn my paycheck, and work for a better world? Because, there isn’t much of a living in being a revolutionary.

        • smo0 says:

          To be clear, I work for an archaic corporation with the potential for change – that adapated the standards and the way of life that was deemed “normal” 60 years ago.
          I believe that as every generation of “CEO’s” dies off, a new generation will take over… it’s my hope honestly.
          Mind you, i don’t work for the Evil Empire – just a company with torn and occasional substandard practices… I’m here to see the workings from the inside and hopefully bring about change… not unlike our senator up there….

          On that note – we need a revolution… I’m not talking hiding behind a bush with a musket. I mean a real change – it’s like looking at the hand book for an Apple 2e when you’re trying to fix a MacBook Pro.

    • Megalomania says:

      So you like Al Franken because you consider him to be like yourself, and that you and he are “free thinkers”, unlike the vast majority of people… because obviously you are special and the regular people don’t think like you do. 10’ll get you 1 that at some point in your life, you have self-diagnosed Aspberger’s.

      I’m going to go with “self congratulatory buffoon” on this one.

      • smo0 says:

        “If you don’t like Al Franken – it’s because he shows you the truth about what you’re a part of. “

        Pretentious, I know….

        You know what they say, the first and one of the hardest steps of recovery is admitting you have a problem.

        • Megalomania says:

          ….I like everything Al Franken has done as a senator. I have no feelings about the man himself since I don’t live somewhere where I could vote for him so I’m not going to go research random things he’s been accused of or refutations of those things he’s been accused of.

          I just think you’re one of those people who wants to believe they’re special and since you can’t find anything to actually distinguish yourself from everyone else, creates a little fantasy world where only you and an elite group of others can see “the truth”, whatever you’ve decided it is, just like the 9-11 “Truth-ers”, the Obama “Birth-ers”, and any other little fringe groups where people need their own reality so they can create a sense of self worth. Your attitude where everyone else is blind and only you can see is deeply offensive to everyone else in the entire world.

          Maybe eventually you’ll realize that just because other people don’t care about the same things you do it doesn’t mean that you’re somehow better than them. Until then, grow up, you self congratulating buffoon.

          • smo0 says:

            I wasn’t attacking anyone – like I said, you seem to be jumping at this like I directly offended you.

            On the same note of “I HATE BLUE!” then someone cries out “WHAT’S WRONG WITH BLUE?!”

            …. they obviously like blue…..

            Maybe I should have replaced free thinkers with a “think for yourself”ers. Something that, yeah I’m going to make an attack, people seem to lack these days.
            You are all about sound bites and media quips.

            I like to think of myself as enlightened.. something only life experience can bring. I’m not the same person I was 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago.

            Normally people respond to my comments with a rebuttal argument as part of a debate… you’re just attacking me as a person.. and focusing on a statement of mine, rather than the bigger picture, that I directed at nobody in particular.

            Feel bad for ya.

  6. vastrightwing says:

    I agree with Al, but on the other hand, I don’t care enough about it one way or the other. If you must get your entertainment fix from Hollywood, then yea, you’re pretty much done. They have the money to do what’s best for them. You on the other hand do have control over where you get your entertainment. By dropping cable and finding other ways to amuse yourself, that’s making a positive change and the MPAA, RIAA be dammed: they will lose. I’m voting every day with my wallet by not supporting this industry, they don’t deserve my support. Period.

  7. Murph1908 says:


    I hate Al Franken more than he hates this merger.

    • DeepHurting says:

      What a well thought out and eloquent rebuttal to the article. Thank you for enlightening all of us with your sagacity.

    • deejmer says:

      Brilliant. Because you personally hate him, his view on this matter is wrong. Way to add to the conversation. What about the fact that this is one of the only senators who actually stands up for the consumer in matters like these? Maybe you should research him for what he’s done as a public figure instead of his Stuart character.

    • redwall_hp says:

      You know, it’s people like you who have made the Republican and Democratic parties the atrocities they are today. Blind hate has no place in politics.

  8. nbs2 says:

    10) Comcast|NBCU must convert their control of broadband infrastructure into a spin off entity that exsists solely to operate said infrastructure. Comcast as an ISP must compete with other organizations for the usage of those pipes; the spinoff company cannot favor Comcast in any negotiations and must allow any willing ISP utilize the infrastructure at the same effective rate that Comcast as an ISP would pay.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      Well, that sounds great, until you actually learn about how the infrastructure works. if you did, you’d understand that it’s virtually impossible.

      • jason in boston says:

        When I lived in the Back Bay, I had Comcast TV with RCN Cable as internet. Same pipe.

  9. crashfrog says:

    Al Franken is the comedian who proves that it’s the 99 other Senators who are the joke.

  10. Rocket says:

    Al Franken for President.

  11. the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

    Here’s a thought for a better America. Feingold/Franken in 2012!

  12. the_Jenkins says:

    +1 Franken. I hate the guy, but agree with this 100%.

    • Sumtron5000 says:

      I like people like you. More people shouldn’t let their political leanings, personal taste or whatever reason why you don’t like him to get in the way of facts.

  13. Riroon13 says:

    The more I hear about Franken, the more I like him.

    It takes a lot for me to admit that, as I thought he was a total douche during his Air America days.

  14. White Speed Receiver says:

    I didn’t vote for Senator Franken, and I probably won’t next election either, but I’ve found myself agreeing a couple times with his opinions. This is another one of them.

  15. dolemite says:

    I really like this guy. He comes off as goofy, but he is about as down-to-earth and logical as any politician can get, and he really is for the “little guy”.

  16. Riroon13 says:

    Another curve ball Franken throws at us:

    There is a Christian documentary out called ‘Lord, Save Us From Your Followers’ (I found it on Netflix).

    Not only was Franken interviewed for the film, he received as much or more air time as all the other interviewees involved. He came across as civil, well-spoken, and showed a great deal of respect for both the filmmaker and the material — even when in disagreement.

  17. ElizabethD says:

    I seriously want this guy to run for president. He is so freakin’ smart and impassioned and MAKES SENSE and cuts through the B.S.

  18. Sian says:

    *is still pissed off that Direct TV doesn’t get G4 (owned by bombcast) in HD because of crap like this.

  19. thisotherguy says:

    Dear Mr Franken,
    Please move to Pennsylvania and run for Senate. I would be delighted to have you as my Senator.

    Thank You,

  20. mrstu says:

    Al Franken: Minnesota’s official apology to the rest of the nation for producing Michelle Bachman.

  21. TehLlama says:

    Am I the only person not myopically and mentally challenged enough to notice that Comcast wouldn’t be engaging in this endeavor if they hadn’t already set aside funding a targets for that funding as a way of greasing the path to this farce, and the only reason this is possible is because of the inane way companies like Comcast are ‘regulated’, which allows them to function without competition (regulation isn’t necessary, what is necessary to allow other companies to make them techologically obsolete, which has happened but comcast-owned interests within the FCC blocked that from coming to be)

    A broken clock is right twice a day, and if you make that sucker run backwards it’ll be right twice as often. In this case, Al Franken is exactly right that it’s a bad idea.

  22. biggeek says:

    Al Franken is the best Senator we’ve had in a long time.

  23. common_sense84 says:

    This merger is 100% anticonsumer. ISPs should not own studios. Cable companies should not own studios. It’s completely garbage to let them merge. There is not a single benefit to the consumer and all kinds of bad things that could result.

  24. RogueWarrior65 says:

    It can’t be any worse than effing GE using NBC to A) promote global warming claims, B) shill for Obama because GE stands to make billions off of cap & trade. Of course just mentioning “diversity” and “localism” tells me that Franken is full of sh*t because those terms are euphemisms for “screw you, middle America. we’re going to jam alternative everything down your optic nerves whether you want it or not.” Localism? What a joke. To Hollywood and Madison Avenue, middle America is the bastard stepchild of the country. Diversity? If a city has less than 1 percent African Americans and less than 5 percent Latinos, why should more than half the programming be dominated by those ethnic groups? Even Asians make up a greater portion of many city’s demographics but I don’t see that ethnicity on most programming. Franken, like most left-wing loons, lives in a theoretical world and the real world doesn’t like him.

  25. prizgrizbiz says:

    If you feel like voting for him, watch ‘Trading Places’ again first.

  26. darksly says:

    Senator Franken needs to stop worrying about corp. mergers and destroying the free market and start worrying about fixing the economy and getting our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

    • Twonkey says:

      You do understand that this merger has potentially severe implications for the economy, don’t you? No, I guess you don’t. You’re just spouting catch-phrases, so I’m willing to bet that the scope of your understanding is limited to what Fox News tells you.

      Look, I’m sure we’d all like our troops to come home, but I think a good deal of us would love to give ’em a decent home to come back to.