It certainly seems bad...
December 3, 2009 11:17 AM   Subscribe

Aside from an intense dislike of the company, what are some logical reasons to oppose the Comcast-NBC merger?

It's going to have to get congressional approval first, and I my gut instinct is against it. I want to contact my congress-person, but I also would like to know more about the issue.
posted by codacorolla to Law & Government (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
How to argue that Media Consolidation is Bad for Democracy.
posted by rokusan at 11:18 AM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


One logical consequence could be higher costs or no access at all to non-Comcast customers, especially satellite users, for NBC's content (including Bravo, Syfy, USA, The Weather Channel, etc.)

DirecTV viewers currently do not receive Versus (owned by Comcast) due to a dispute between the two companies; this situation could very well be repeated with Comcast's new acquisitions.
posted by bgrebs at 11:30 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Congress doesn't approve mergers.
posted by dfriedman at 11:34 AM on December 3, 2009



How Robber Barons hijacked the "Victorian Internet"


also, Vertical Integration does not have a very good track record (for the consumer).
posted by ArgentCorvid at 11:37 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Large companies or conglomerates do everything badly. They're inefficient, and have too many stakeholders. This usually results in lowest-common-denominator thinking. Don't expect intelligence or thought in any media coming from this behemoth.

I'd oppose it because it will do nothing to improve the quality of media in North America, it will merely increase the quantity.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:39 AM on December 3, 2009


Merger Facts via BoingBoing.
posted by sharkfu at 11:42 AM on December 3, 2009


Some points you should be aware of:

1) congress does not sign off on corporate mergers. The justice department, which is part of the executive branch, does.

2) NBC is presently owned by an even larger corporate entity, GE. So I don't understand why you think that their ownership by another larger company would be any worse that the status quo

3) the deal is structured in such a way that Comcast will only acquire a majority stake in NBC. GE will still retain a minority share for at least the next several years.
posted by dfriedman at 11:43 AM on December 3, 2009


Comcast loves wringing cash out of people, so I'm not sure what this will mean for free, streaming online content (which NBC has been pretty generous about in the past).

Also, Tina Fey will probably have to rewrite a bunch of 30 Rock scripts.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:48 AM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


From what I've read, this has to pass the senate Judiciary Committee... in particular the anti-trust committee. My senator, Cardin, is a member of this, and is someone I could contact about it. I'm going by Wikipedia, but apparently they have "Oversight of antitrust enforcement policies of Justice Department;" and "Oversight of antitrust and competition policies of the Federal Trade Commission."

That means that I could use my position as a voter to express disapproval on it, right?

GE isn't a content distributor that I've had numerous bad customer encounters with, and who has a history of abusing their power as a content provider, so I think the situation is a bit different.

Please correct me if I'm wrong about the first paragraph, I may have misunderstood the articles I've read.
posted by codacorolla at 11:50 AM on December 3, 2009


Any single chokepoint on content creation and distribution has a high potential for abuse, and when it's Comcast potentially owning all that TV content to distribute over its own networks... I think net neutrality abuse would have to be high on the panic-watchlist.

You know, like 30 Rock is now available only for Comcast subscribers, or The Late Show will stream so much better to Comcast users than to others. Squeezing of the tubes to constrain the market and exert control.
posted by rokusan at 11:50 AM on December 3, 2009


You're confusing a congressional oversight committee, which monitors the actions of the executive branch (of which the justice department is a part) with the enforcement of antitrust law.

Laws are written by Congress, enforced by the Executive Branch, and the judiciary makes decisions based upon those laws.

If you're really this opposed to the merger, contacting your congressperson will be of little utility.
posted by dfriedman at 11:56 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


...I could use my position as a voter to express disapproval on it, right?

Absolutely. However, you are delusional if you believe that we live in a representational democracy and that your letter will take precedence over the millions of dollars Comcast has spent purchasing politicians.
posted by torquemaniac at 11:59 AM on December 3, 2009


Look, if you feel that your voice needs to be heard, by all means contact your representative and senator. I disagree with the premise of your question, but no matter. Civic engagement is the larger issue here, and it's good you want your voice to be heard. But you should also understand that it is beyond Congress' purview to interfere in corporate mergers.
posted by dfriedman at 12:05 PM on December 3, 2009


I really enjoyed that article about the telegraph companies.

Even though it probably won't do anything (especially since it appears Cardin is on the general committee, but not the sub-committee) I'll still write to him. If every person who disagreed with the merger decided it was fruitless then it's possible that Cardin would never know that the move was unpopular. Even if it comes to nothing against Comcast's millions (and I'm not harboring much hope) at least I did something.

Is there a more effective thing that I could do to oppose the NBC merger?
posted by codacorolla at 12:08 PM on December 3, 2009




also, Vertical Integration does not have a very good track record (for the consumer).

This isn't correct. Review any of the scholarship done by "post-Chicago" economists and lawyers in reaction to the perceived excesses of the Chicago school. Vertical integration is at worst/at best a mixed bag whatever your preconceptions, and really must be examined on the basis of specific behaviors and industries.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:15 PM on December 3, 2009


From what I've read, this has to pass the senate Judiciary Committee... in particular the anti-trust committee. My senator, Cardin, is a member of this, and is someone I could contact about it. I'm going by Wikipedia, but apparently they have "Oversight of antitrust enforcement policies of Justice Department;" and "Oversight of antitrust and competition policies of the Federal Trade Commission."

You are incorrect. I am an attorney with some experience in anti-trust work. Congress has no say in this matter. Indeed, such a bill would be a bill of attainder, something expressly prohibited by the Constitution. You could write the Anti-trust division of the Justice Department or ask Senator Cardin to do so.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:22 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the best answer about why to oppose the merger is to *look* at Comcast's site. Ouch. Even as a customer, and one who makes a very good living from web programming, I have absolutely no clue how to do anything. Add a new channel to my accouny? No clue. Update my information, no clue. What would it cost me to upgrade to another account level? No clue.

Too many witches stirring the pot makes for a bad, bad user experience. Comcast is already too big to actually serve users.
posted by Invoke at 12:24 PM on December 3, 2009


I am THIS CLOSE to canceling cable (Verizon FIOS) and just downloading the shows I want to watch, both legally and illegally.

Cable has simply become too expensive. The costs goes up every month for no apparent reason.

If Verizon were smart they'd start offering "al a cart" pricing, which I'd be more than happy to pay for -- where I am not happy at all about paying for several hundred channels I never watch.
posted by camworld at 12:32 PM on December 3, 2009


Thanks to everyone who's replied so far. I'm going to mark this as answered, but I'm still interested in hearing more. I'm glad that you were able to straighten me out on the legal venues that the merger has to go through.
posted by codacorolla at 12:32 PM on December 3, 2009


Indeed, such a bill would be a bill of attainder

I'm not 100% sure on that. The corporate form is entirely invented. Permission to operate as a corporation in the first place is not constitutionally guaranteed. There are a lot of underlying questions that I don't think are settled in case law. Is the legal fiction of corporate personhood to be recognized for this particular constitutional right? Is the grant of a corporate form a property interest that can't be taken (or withheld) without due process? Does it violate federalism for the Federal government to interfere too much with the corporate form (which is a function of state law)? Does the answer change depending on whether the corporation is non-profit (and therefore the Commerce Clause argument might be - or at least traditionally have been - weaker)?

Anyway, practically, Ironmouth is utterly right. Congress isn't gonna wade too far into this one.
posted by jock@law at 12:53 PM on December 3, 2009


Free Press has a good analysis of the antitrust issues, as well as an action page with information and links to action alerts, although of course it's always better to write your own letter where possible before using an advocacy group form letter.

They have also created a nutrition-label-esque Merger Facts graphic and are apparently encouraging people to use the twitter #NoMerger tag.
posted by KatlaDragon at 1:00 PM on December 3, 2009


And here's more from former Free Press attorney Marvin Ammori at HuffPo.
posted by KatlaDragon at 1:23 PM on December 3, 2009


Consumerist just posted some reasons why this could be very bad for consumers.
posted by magnetsphere at 2:59 PM on December 3, 2009


Comcast loves wringing cash out of people.

How does that make them different from every other company? Publicly traded corporations have a fiduciary duty to their stock holders to try to make money.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:31 PM on December 3, 2009


The merger will also have to be approved by the FCC, so you could start a letter writing campaign to them.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 4:02 PM on December 3, 2009


It's not yet clear whether the FTC or DOJ will control the review [both may have jurisdiction, but only one will be "cleared" to supervise]. It is, however, expected to be the topic of hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee's Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights Subcommittee. This does happen, at the discretion of the subcommittee; earlier this year they looked at Ticketmaster/LiveNation.

I couldn't find a clear indication that there will be a period of public comment.
posted by dhartung at 9:18 PM on December 3, 2009


I'm not 100% sure on that. The corporate form is entirely invented. Permission to operate as a corporation in the first place is not constitutionally guaranteed. There are a lot of underlying questions that I don't think are settled in case law. Is the legal fiction of corporate personhood to be recognized for this particular constitutional right? Is the grant of a corporate form a property interest that can't be taken (or withheld) without due process? Does it violate federalism for the Federal government to interfere too much with the corporate form (which is a function of state law)? Does the answer change depending on whether the corporation is non-profit (and therefore the Commerce Clause argument might be - or at least traditionally have been - weaker)?

This isn't about the corporate form. Its about indivdual corporations. And, as we all hear is suddenly so terrible, a corporation is a person, for civil procedure purposes. A bill against a single corporation is a bill against a single person. Its a level we don't want to get involved in.

However, on the licensing level, I can see it. But that's not the judiciary committee and it isn't anti-trust. There's no constitutional right to a license. Its the media concentration rules that would provide any juice to legislatively stop this merger. The problem is that Comcast is locally regulated. You'd need a rewrite. If I was going after this merger, I'd focus on the concentration rules.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:29 PM on December 3, 2009


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