WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 – Sounding an alarm over the concentration of media ownership in the United States, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today asked the Federal Communications Commission to disapprove the merger of NBC Universal and Comcast.
“At a time when a small number of giant media corporations already control what the American people see, hear, and read, we need more media diversity, more local control, more points of view – not more media concentration,” Sanders said. “In my view, we need more media diversity, more local control, more points of view – not more media concentration.”
Decreased diversity and increased cable rates also are among the likely consequences of the deal, Sanders said in a letter to the FCC opposing the combination of media conglomerates.
The proposed merger would fold NBC Universal, the General Electric subsidiary, into Comcast, the largest cable television provider in America. If the FCC okays the deal, Sanders said the result would be “less local news, less diverse points of view and less competition for viewers and advertising.”
The arrangement also would put other content providers at a competitive disadvantage to NBC in reaching Comcast cable customers, the senator said. Comcast would be in a position to charge independent producers higher fees and to offer them less desirable placements on cable channel lineups.
Sanders cited a study by former FCC chief economist William Rogerson, who calculated that consumers would pay $2.4 billion in added rates if the merger is completed. “I would think it an obvious conclusion that ‘public interest, convenience, and necessity’ would not be served by a regressive wealth transfer of $2.4 billion from ordinary citizens to what would be one of the largest corporate entities in the United States,” Sanders wrote.
By statute, the commission should not approve a transfer of station license “except upon . . . finding . . . that the public interest, convenience, and necessity will be served thereby.” The proposed merger, Sanders said, clearly does not meet that standard.