Moguls urge OK for merger

Comcast, NBC U leaders make their case on Capitol Hill

Comcast’s Brian Roberts and NBC Universal’s Jeff Zucker will make the case for Comcast’s pending takeover of NBC Universal at two congressional hearings today as lawmakers are expected to raise concerns about the proposed transaction’s impact on competition and consolidation.

The two media moguls will testify in the morning before the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet and in the afternoon before the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights.

Offering a preview of their positions, Comcast exec VP David Cohen wrote in a blog post the about consumer benefits of Comcast’s acquisition of a 51% stake in the Peacock from General Electric, including increased content available on demand and online, as well as a promise to boost local news programming by a total of 1,000 hours at NBC-owned stations.

The public gabfests are considered the “show and tell” portion of intensive lobbying efforts under way by all sides to marshal congressional input as the Justice Dept. and FCC weigh whether to greenlight the deal. Among those also testifying before the House subcommittee will be Michael Fiorile, chairman of the NBC Affiliates Board, who will express concerns that Comcast could gradually migrate compelling sports, news and entertainment programming to its cable channels. He’s also concerned about affils’ bargaining power with Comcast as they negotiate so-called retransmission payments. Those are the fees cable operators pay for the right to carry broadcast channels.

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