Maxine Waters Criticizes FCC for Comcast-NBC U Approval

Throughout the review process of the Comcast-NBC Universal, there was perhaps no more visible critic than Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). At various points she chided NBC U chief Jeff Zucker, pressed the FCC to lengthen the time of its review and even tried to pair up job seekers with NBC execs at a July Judiciary Committee field hearing.

Not surprisingly, Waters is not pleased that the transaction got the regulatory greenlight, but she faults the FCC more than the Department of Justice, the two agencies that had to give the deal their clearance.

“The combination of a major content provider with our nation’s leading cable service provider warranted every level of public and congressional scrutiny it endured over the past year,” she said in a statement provided by her office.  “To that end, I must express my disappointment with the failure of either agency – particularly the FCC – to craft substantive conditions that are in conformity with established precedent and standards on media diversity and localism.” 

She also doesn’t give much credence to Comcast’s pledge to add 10 independently owned channels to its digital tier over the next 8 years, “when current networks have had so many challenges negotiating reasonable carriage terms with the cable giant.”

While she did “commend” the DOJ for its consent decree “containing provisions that can work to ease some — albeit, not all — of the concerns” about the transaction, she noted that the conditions expire in seven years, at most.

“Since no divestitures, separation of corporate authority, or any other stringent conditions were attached to the acquisition, the FCC’s 279-page order approving the Comcast-NBCU merger will be even more meaningless than it is today,” she says.

As Waters points out, her views are counter to those of some of her Republican colleagues on the Hill. Far from calling the FCC too lenient, they accuse the agency of being too stringent and invoke a term we’re likely to hear ever more often in the next two years, regulatory overreach.

Her full statement is below:

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