Congress is beginning to weigh in on the merger between Comcast and NBC Universal. On May 8, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and 45 other members of Congress requested the FCC hold public hearings on the proposed merger and have also compiled six pages' worth of questions it would like the two companies to answer.
"I have been concerned about media consolidation and a lack of programming and ownership diversity in media for years," Waters told TVBR.com. "Comcast is the nation's largest provider of cable and internet services, so the merger's impact will affect virtually every American. My colleagues and I want the FCC to conduct a thorough review of the Comcast-NBC merger, including public hearings, and to have our questions answered in a timely and substantive manner."
Many of those who joined in on a letter sent to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and copied to the other four commissioners are members of either the Congressional Black Caucus or the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
The questions being posed by the congressional group fall into the following general categories: diversity in ownership as it relates to programming; diversity in employment and executive leadership; diversity in advertising; cable rates (particularly, whether the beneficial economies the companies say they will derive from the merger will show up on subscribers' cable bills); labor questions, focusing on Comcast's "aggressive" policy to discourage unions; stifling rival programming distributors; program carriage; and tagged on at the end, an additional 16 miscellaneous questions.
"Comcast and NBC's records on corporate and programming diversity have recently been critiqued by many consumer and media advocacy groups," Waters said. "We all have a collective responsibility to ensure that women and minorities have a place in the corporate office and on television, and that the American people are not given less services or charged more money by a result of this merger."