Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Obama Officials Got Comcast's Back

The news that cable and news giant Comcast has struck a deal to purchase Time Warner, another large cable business, has raised serious concerns over market concentration.   The merger would make the combined company the dominant provider in 19 of the top 20 markets in the United States,

A Seattle Times editorial has pointed out that the recent wave of media consolidations has diluted the breadth and quality of journalism in America, and that regulatory failures have eliminated almost all oversight of broadband and Internet services.  Putting all the access under ever fewer corporate brands, and decreasing already limited competition raises basic concerns about prices.

When Comcast purchased NBC Universal in 2011, lobbyists were hired to ensure the merger went through. After signing off on the Comcast-NBC deal, FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker, (married to the son of Republican James Baker) was hired by Comcast for an undisclosed amount.  FCC Commissioner Michael Powell (son of Colin Powell) then became head of the industry lobbying association for a seven-figure salary.

The current head of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, is the former head of both the largest cable lobbying organization (National Cable & Telecommunications Association), as well as largest wireless lobby (CTIA – The Wireless Association).  The recently installed head of the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, William Baer, was a lawyer representing GE and NBC in their push for the merger with Comcast.  Maureen Ohlhausen, one of four commissioners on the Federal Trade Commission, which oversees antitrust enforcement, provided legal counsel for Comcast as an attorney just before joining the FTC.   In addition, FTC Commissioner Joshua Wright currently works for a consulting firm that worked to secure antitrust clearance from DOJ and the FCC for the NBC-Comcast merger.

Unless the public rises up in outrage over the proposed merger, the deck is stacked against the consumer. 

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