Cable Giant Tries to Change the Channel on its DC influence by Accusing Merger Opponents of Extortion
Unable to offer persuasive arguments on behalf of its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable, Comcast has launched a reckless and unsupported attack on merger opponents, Common Cause said today.
“We oppose the Comcast merger because it’s anti-competitive, harmful to consumers and potentially dangerous to democracy,” said former Federal Communications Commission member Michael Copps, now special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative. “Comcast’s suggestion that we’ve offered to withdraw our opposition in return for favors from the company is absolutely unfounded and untrue.”
In a filing this week with the FCC, Comcast made sweeping accusations against businesses and groups – including Common Cause and several other non-profit organizations — that filed comments opposed to the merger. The merger challengers sought benefits from Comcast including “free backbone interconnection… participation in advertising “interconnects… advanced advertising technology that Comcast develops… wholesale service arrangements,” and other favors, Comcast charged. In return, the companies and groups proposed to withdraw or mute their objections to the Comcast/Time Warner Cable deal, Comcast said.
“We’ve never sought anything from Comcast, directly or indirectly, and the company knows it,” Copps said. “Comcast owes us an apology.
“Comcast is trying to change the channel while quietly throwing around big money and influence in Washington,” he added.
Comcast, its affiliates and executives already have spent more than $3.7 million on federal campaign contributions and $26.5 million on lobbying in D.C. during this election cycle, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. The cable giant employs 140 lobbyists, 118 of whom previously held government jobs, CRP reports.
“If combined with Time Warner Cable, Comcast would gain a monopoly on cable services in much of the country and become the nation’s largest broadband provider,” Copps added. “We remain convinced that no one should be permitted to gain such a stranglehold on the movement of news and information.”
“After the outrageous NBC-Universal merger that I opposed, I never thought there were ANY conditions that would make the Comcast-TWC deal acceptable,” Copps said. In fact, I very clearly said right-off-the-bat that the proposal should be dead-on-arrival at the FCC.”
As an FCC Commissioner, Copps cast the lone dissenting vote when the commission approved Comcast’s consolidation with NBC-Universal in 2011.