Hot air in the Windy City: opponents take aim at Comcast deal

As expected, groups and individuals opposing the $30 billion Comcast-NBC Universal merger-takeover shot the breeze in Chicago during a two-hour House Communications Subcommittee field hearing.

Among those expressing discontent--or at least seeking conditions on the deal--was the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, which asked Comcast to set aside 10 percent of its basic tier for networks "owned and operated by people of color. We want to make sure that independently owned and controlled minority cable networks don't find it harder to gain carriage if this deal happens," Jackson, who was a no-show at the hearing, said in written testimony.

Elsewhere, the deal continued to roil along. The Writers Guild of America, which opposes the deal, pragmatically suggested that the merged entity "contribute assets to public programming." A coalition composed of 20 public interest, industry and consumer groups, including the usual suspects like Free Press and Media Access Project, along with Bloomberg and the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association formed up and stressed that "concentrated power is fundamentally threatening to the public interest" and these "threats must be mitigated through energetic applications of the government's regulatory authority."

Comcast, of course, calmly responded to all the brouhaha via a blog post by EVP David Cohen that suggested that some of the negativity is nothing more than a negotiating ploy from "certain competition and programmers" and that "these efforts should be rejected."

For what it's worth (and that's really kind of unclear) the deal is expected to win regulatory approval from the European Union next week-without any demands for concessions, sources said.

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