Hollywood Groups, Congressman Call For Feds To Block Comcast/TWC Merger



Today, Los Angeles is a Time Warner Cable town, with Charter poking in around the edges. Of course if Comcast and TWC get their way, Hollywood will be Comcast central before the year is out. However, there are plenty of Californians around who emphatically don’t want that to happen, and in a new report and press event this week they got together to call on federal regulators to block the corporate marriage before it could hurt their hometown — or anyone else.

In their report, “L.A. Consolidation” (PDF), the organizations — working with Public Knowledge — went through a laundry list of ways that the merger would be harmful to one of the largest cities in the country. Representatives for a number of groups spoke at the event, including several members of the Stop Mega-Comcast Coalition. The message was the same all around: that the FCC and Department of Justice need to stop this union, and the sooner the better.

The Writers’ Guild of America – West was present at the event. The group has previously spoken out against the merger, and WGAW president Chris Keyser reiterated the sentiment, saying, “Comcast has already stated that if the merger is allowed it will save money by paying less for content. This means that programmers will have less money to invest in content, which means less creativity, less innovation and less product.”

“While approval of this deal once seemed an inevitable outcome,” Keyser added, “the issues raised here today and over the last year make clear that the appropriate action for state and federal regulators is to say no to the merger.”

California representative Tony Cardenas, whose district includes Los Angeles, also spoke out against the planned transaction. “I announce my strong opposition to the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger,” said Cardenas, asking the FCC and DOJ to block it because “it is bad for consumers, will harm competition, will lead to less diverse content and more expensive cable and internet access, and will eliminate good jobs in California.”

Cardenas also expressed concerns about Comcast’s relationships with smaller, independent programmers in the face of the cable behemoth’s vertical integration. “The proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger is a tipping point in the American media and broadband industries and would encourage a market that is not free, but one that limits innovation, diversity of programming and competition,” Cardenas concluded.

The ad hoc alliance of speakers pointed not only to the ways in which consumers overall would be harmed by the merger — with worse service at higher prices — but also drew attention to groups that get much less attention. In particular, the merger would give Comcast extensive dominance of the Spanish-language programming market nationwide, as well as disproportionately affecting Asian, Latino, and African-American communities in California, the WGA says.

And of course there are the sports fans, who already can’t watch their Los Angeles home teams, and probably won’t be able to in the future either.

A post-merger Comcast, the report concludes, would have complete dominance (PDF) over the TV and internet access in the community where much programming, both from big studios and independent or online programmers, is made. It’s “a bad deal for Los Angeles as well as for the rest of the country. Comcast’s increased buyer power … will lead to higher prices for consumers, fewer content choices and less diverse and innovative content.”

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