For the past few weeks, Comcast thought it was coasting toward an easy approval of its proposed takeover of NBC-Universal. But there’s been a bump in the road; this week, people started really kicking the tires of this deal, and it quickly became clear that this merger is little more than a jalopy with a fancy hood ornament.
Now it looks like the nonprofit public interest group Consumers Union – the publishers of Consumer Reports - has grabbed the wheel and is driving its message home: Stop this merger. The group announced yesterday that it has rented a mobile billboard that will be making the rounds through D.C. all week, carrying their message to policy makers and the Federal Communications Commission.
The billboard features a cable cord that turns into a snake – a "cable constrictor" – crushing a television (see the ad here). The ad reads: "Don't Constrict Choice – Reject the Comcast Buyout of NBC", and directs people to the website SayNoToComcastNBC.org to write the FCC about the proposed deal. But just in case those emails aren’t enough, Consumers Union parked their billboard outside the FCC yesterday, just as new allegations emerged about Comcast’s anti-consumer and anticompetitive behavior.
Parul P. Desai, policy counsel for Consumers Union, said:
Regulators should reject Comcast's buyout of NBC because it's a bad deal for consumers and competition. In this economy, consumers should not be at risk of higher prices for cable and Internet service. While the companies have said they won't engage in anticompetitive practices, Comcast has earned deep distrust. Comcast routinely raises rates, requires customers to buy packages of channels they don't watch to get the few they do, and slaps stiff penalties on people who want to move to another broadband company for better service. Allowing Comcast to take over the content by NBC Universal could mean consumers would pay higher prices and have fewer media choices.
When it comes to this merger, it’s time for the FCC to hit the brakes.