×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Senator Asks DOJ to Take Another Look at Comcast-NBCUniversal Merger

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said that he has asked that the Justice Department to investigate the Comcast-NBCUniversal merger and whether it will pose a threat to consumers after conditions to the transaction expire in September, 2018.

He referenced the transaction, approved by the Justice Department and the FCC in 2011, at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on antitrust law and enforcement. But it also comes with renewed scrutiny on media mega-mergers, as the DOJ challenges AT&T’s proposed merger with Time Warner and reports that the Walt Disney Co. is nearing a deal to purchase most of the assets of 21st Century Fox.

Blumenthal said at the hearing that if the set of conditions placed on the Comcast-NBCUniversal transaction are not extended, “I believe that this will pose a very serious threat to competition.” The conditions include provisions that prohibit Comcast-NBCUniversal from withholding content from online, cable, and satellite rivals. The company also must comply with anti-retaliation provisions, which are overseen by the FCC and are set to expire on Jan. 20.

Blumenthal even broached the idea that the Justice Department could unravel the merger altogether.

In a letter to Makan Delrahim, the chief of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, Blumenthal said that “if your investigation determines that the Comcast–NBCU acquisition will produce anticompetitive effects, even if the merger conditions are retained, you may need to consider separating Comcast and NBCU in order to fully restore competition.”

“As a member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, I have previously raised concerns regarding whether the conditions imposed on Comcast and NBCU have achieved their intended effects of promoting competition and protecting consumers and, more broadly, whether these types of conditions can actually work.”

A Comcast spokeswoman said that “there is no credible basis to pursue an extension or modification of the consent decree or conditions. For nearly seven years, Comcast has met or exceeded all of the commitments and obligations under the NBCUniversal transaction. We have filed six annual compliance reports with the FCC setting forth in detail our exemplary compliance track record, none of which has been challenged or objected to by the Commission or any third parties, including by any member of Congress.  The DOJ, which has received substantial information about our compliance with the consent decree, has never pursued any enforcement action against us.”

The spokeswoman added that the marketplace has gotten more competitive, particularly with the growth of online video.

“We have reached dozens of content deals with MVPDs without loss of programming to consumers,” she said.  “In fact, the arbitration mechanism created in the FCC order has been used by only one MVPD over seven years.. There is simply no precedent and no need for the conditions to be extended or modified, or our transaction revisited.”

Blumenthal wrote that the DOJ case against AT&T has relevance to the Comcast-NBCU merger. He wrote that “the very same principles that the Department invoked to justify its suit to prevent the AT&T-Time Warner acquisition suggest that the Comcast-NBCU acquisition must be investigated further.”

Blumenthal’s complete letter is here.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, who is presiding over the AT&T-Time Warner case, also signed off on the settlement agreement that paved the way for the Comcast-NBCUniversal deal.

Delrahim has expressed a preference for structural conditions, in which companies sell assets to secure merger approval, versus behavioral conditions like those in the Comcast-NBCU transaction.

A Justice Department spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.

More Politics

  • Robert Mueller Report

    Robert Mueller Delivers Russia Investigation Report to Attorney General

    WASHINGTON — Special Counsel Robert Mueller delivered a report on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election to Attorney General William Barr, after a weeks-long waiting game for word that Mueller’s probe was reaching its conclusion. The details of the report are still confidential after a nearly two-year investigation that had led to [...]

  • HRC, UCLA to Host Presidential Candidates

    Human Rights Campaign, UCLA to Host Presidential Candidates Forum on LGBTQ Issues

    The Human Rights Campaign Foundation and UCLA are teaming up to host a forum in October for Democratic presidential candidates focused on LGBTQ issues. The event will take place on Oct. 10 in UCLA’s Royce Hall, and will be part of UCLA’s Luskin Lecture Series from the university’s Luskin School of Public Affairs. National Coming [...]

  • Devin Nunes

    Devin Nunes Files $250 Million Defamation Lawsuit Against Twitter

    U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes filed a $250 million defamation lawsuit against Twitter on Monday, alleging that he has been the victim of hundreds of hate-filled tweets. The suit also takes aim at Liz Mair, a Republican communications consultant who has attacked Nunes on Twitter, and the anonymous accounts “Devin Nunes’ Mom” and “Devin Nunes’ Cow.” [...]

  • Members of the public mourn at

    Peter Jackson: New Zealanders Stand 'United in Our Love' in Wake of Mosque Attacks

    “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson said Saturday that he and his fellow New Zealanders “stand united in our love and support for our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters” in the wake of the devastating terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch that left at least 49 people dead. “New Zealanders are devastated,” Jackson [...]

  • Steven Mnuchin

    Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Grilled Over Interest in Wife's Production Company

    WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was asked in a Senate hearing about a continued potential interest in Stormchaser Films, the production company founded by his wife, Louise Linton. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, said at a hearing on Thursday that the concern is that “there has been [...]

  • Police keep watch at a park

    At Least 49 Killed in Terrorist Attack on Two New Zealand Mosques

    Armed attacks Friday on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killed at least 49 people and injured dozens of others in what authorities called an act of terrorism. Four people – three men and one woman – were in custody Friday evening, New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said. One of them, reported to be [...]

  • Anti-Brexit remain in the European Union

    British Parliament Decides to Ask for Delay to Brexit

    The British Parliament has voted to ask for a delay to the U.K.’s exit from the European Union in a bid for more time to get squabbling lawmakers behind a deal on the terms of the withdrawal. The U.K. is currently due to leave the E.U. on March 29, but Thursday evening’s 412-202 vote in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content