Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) today pressed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski on the implications for consumers on the proposed merger between Comcast and NBC.
Kerry is the Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet.
The full text of Senator Kerry's statement as prepared is below:
Thank you Mr. Chairman. The proposed merger we are discussing today would create a unique and powerful company. And I have faith that the Chairman of the FCC, Julius Genachowski, and the Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust, Christine Varney, will conduct a fair review and impose sensible conditions on it.
I also have immense respect for Brian Roberts. He has taken a small cable company and turned it into a communications giant. That kind of success is admirable. And I have an open mind on this merger. Mergers can increase efficiencies and promote innovation when done well. But without proper scrutiny and strong conditions, big mergers can distort markets, reduce consumer choice, and drive up the price of services. Also, large incumbents often act to discourage the entry of new competitors or alternative business models that would benefit consumers.
As my advocacy during the recent retransmission consent disputes has indicated, I have always tried to focus on consumers and encourage the market to maximize consumer access to content, to discourage prices from escalating without commensurate consumer benefits, and to encourage competition between cable, satellite, and telephone television providers. I am also a big believer in localism, diversity in programming, and the continued growth of the Internet as a tool for communications and access to information and entertainment.
Two specific concerns have arisen in the lead up to this hearing. First, there is concern that Comcast control over the NBC stations will give Comcast leverage to charge higher prices for broadband and cable content to other cable, satellite, telephone, and Internet companies providing competing services. That would lead to higher prices for consumers. Second, there is a fear that cable companies and content creators will use contractual -- and now possible ownership -- tools to lock content online onto their websites. That could limit the potential of the Internet as a new way for consumers to get content without having to subscribe to cable or satellite services. Otherwise, video on the Internet may become no more than a tool to promote content on cable and satellite systems.
Comcast has, to its credit, made some voluntary commitments to address these concerns and it is up to the expert agencies to determine how much more is necessary to protect the public.
I will be asking questions today of the witnesses and will withhold final judgment on the merger's implications until we know more. Again, thank you Mr. Chairman.