With Comcast closing in on its latest acquisition target, 21st Century Fox, the cable giant’s hometown newspaper made the case that its most vocal critic in Congress, Al Franken, is now out of the way.
The Democratic Senator from Minnesota resigned Thursday amid sexual harassment allegations. The Philadelphia Inquirer noted that the lawmaker had vocally opposed Comcast in its successful quest to buy NBCUniversal and its failed attempt to acquire Time Warner Cable.
Grilling Comcast CEO Brian Roberts on the NBCU deal in 2010, Franken said, “It’s really hard for me to trust you guys.”
With NBCU parent General Electric teetering at the time in the aftermath of the Great Depression, the FCC and Justice Department OK’d the Comcast purchase, but not without strident conditions that are only now starting to ease.
In 2014, with Comcast executives back in front of the Senate while attempting to buy TWC, Franken noted, “There’s no doubt that Comcast is a huge, influential corporation, and I understand that there are over 100 lobbyists making the case for this deal to members of Congress and our staffs. But I’ve also heard from over 100,000 consumers who oppose this deal, and I think their voices need to be heard, too.”
Comcast soon abandoned the effort to buy TWC after spending a reported $400 million on lawyers and lobbyists.
Of course, Franken wasn’t the only lawmaker in the U.S. Senate trying to protect consumers from Comcast.
Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill has kept a gimlet eye on the pay TV industry in recent years, as have Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Ed Markey, D-Mass. The latter spearheaded the FCC’s failed drive under Democratic former Chairman Tom Wheeler to regulate the set-top leasing business.
Comcast is reportedly competing with the Walt Disney Company to acquire pieces of 21st Century Fox. Bloomberg reported earlier this week that Comcast particularly covets Fox’s 39% stake in Britain’s Sky Plc. pay TV operation.
An attempt by Comcast to buy all or a portion of another major media conglomerate will undoubtedly result in Roberts appearing in front of Democratic Senators in hearings. If that happens, Franken will not be a part of it.