Comcast-NBCU deal conditions should be extended, Sen. Blumenthal says

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) has asked the U.S. Attorney General’s Office Antitrust Division to investigate Comcast’s compliance with conditions laid out in 2011 to approve the cable giant’s purchase of NBCUniversal.

Blumenthal, a veteran critic of the pay-TV industry, has also asked the Attorney General to hold off on sunsetting the merger conditions, which are set to expire later next year. 

“Over the past six years the Comcast-NBCU acquisition has been roundly criticized by experts who argue that it has caused anti-competitive harm despite the conditions that were imposed on it,” Blumenthal wrote in a letter to Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general for the antitrust division. 

“This has been evidenced in part by the numerous complaints that have been filed based on violations of these conditions,” Blumenthal added. “In light of the continued anti-competitive threat posed by this acquisition, I urge you to open an investigation into these complaints with the goal of determining whether the acquisition can be allowed to stand without the conditions that currently govern it.”

Blumenthal also asked Delrahim to petition the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to have the original conditions remain in place.

“As you know, the District Court has the power to extend or modify these conditions,” he said. 

Blumenthal’s plea comes as the Justice Department has pushed back on Comcast rival AT&T’s proposed purchase of another media conglomerate, Time Warner Inc. 

There is symmetry between the two deals, with speculation swirling that President Donald Trump’s distaste for Time Warner cable news asset CNN has somehow influenced the DOJ to fight AT&T in court over the deal. 

With the President waging a daily war against news outlets he finds unfavorable, NBC News has come in a close second behind CNN in terms of Trump’s scrutiny. 

Blumenthal, of course, is no friend to Comcast or the cable industry, having teamed up two years ago with Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) to initiate an FCC drive to overhaul the leased proprietary pay-TV set-top business.