Monday, April 19, 2010

FCC Suspends Comcast/NBCU Deadline Indefinitely

RBR-TVBR After going over economic reports from the principals in the proposed merger of Comcast and NBCU, FCC staff has requested two additional economic reports, which the principals say cannot be ready until near the 5/3/10 deadline for comments. The FCC has therefore suspended the deadline.

Once the new reports are available to the public, the 45-day comment clock will begin, followed by a 30-day reply/opposition period and 15-day reply/oppose the replies/oppositions period.US Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) had joined numerous organizations in seeking a 45-day extension to the 5/3/10 date, and had followed a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to that effect with the introduction of legislation that aimed to make the extension a matter of law.

In fact, in a release Waters claimed victory, saying, “The FCC Media Bureau now acknowledges – as I have maintained – that consumer advocates will need substantially more time to review the complex details of this merger and prepare a sufficient response,” said Congresswoman Waters. “This positive development ensures that the interests of the American public will be weighed before the FCC issues its ruling on the merger.”

RBR-TVBR observation: Maybe it’s just us, but it seems that these types of transactions rarely travel in the fast lane of the government review highway – the pace is closer to what’s possible on a one-lane, one-way city street with parking on two sides, heavy pedestrian traffic and over-sized hot-dog stands.

Our prediction: The deadline will move back, and the requests for an extension will begin anew.

We do not agree that Waters was the reason the FCC extended the deadline – the Commission is usually very upfront about acknowledging the source of such a request when it grants an extension. The FCC said the reason was the submission of new information by the principals, and we believe the FCC.

The Waters legislation is now moot, but we suggest that she may want to keep it warm, ready to be amended with new dates, should she want additional time after the second round of reports become available. And well she might – more data means more for analysts to wade through, and 45 days may prove just as troublesome on the second round as many found it to be on the first.

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Sen. Franken Awakens AG Holder to Comcast/NBCU Merger Issue

US Attorney General Eric Holder thought he was in a Senate Judiciary hearing about Guantanamo Bay – but Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) took the opportunity to grill the AG about the DOJ review of the proposed merger of Comcast and NBCU.

Holder was circumspect, but did confess to being interested as a private citizen thanks to his status as Comcast subscriber.Franken expressed concerns about the merger, according to a Washington Post Report, including the possibility of setting off a wave of similar mergers between other media giants that could leave the nation with essentially five sources of information.

Holder and his anti-trust leader Christine Varney would only promise vigilant review, until Franken pointed out that the average citizen didn’t understand this issue, that it was about their cable bill.

“Well, now I care. I’m a Comcast subscriber,” said Holder, according to WaPo. “And the fact that you point out it could have an impact on my cable bill has awakened. ... You’ve got the A.G. more interested than I was going into this.”

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