Moral Low Ground


FCC Approves Comcast/NBC-Universal Merger

By a 4-1 vote, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the acquisition of NBC-Universal by cable provider Comcast. The massive merger will combine Comcast’s cable TV and internet operations with NBC-Universal’s news and entertainment empire.

“This is a proud and exciting day for Comcast,” the company’s CEO, Brian Roberts, declared. Comcast, the nation’s largest cable and high-speed internet corporation, will now control the NBC broadcast network, many cable TV channels, two dozen local NBC and Spanish-language Telemundo stations, movie studios, online video portals, and the distribution network for all this and more through internet and cable connections.

Net neutrality advocates are incensed. Coupled with the FCC’s recent ruling that  critics claim has all but killed net neutrality, this latest approval could have serious implications for freedom of choice.

“I’ll be candid with you,” US Senator Al Franken (D-MN) said, “This is an awful development for those of us who care about media consolidation. It will restrict your freedom of choice and raise your cable and Internet bills. And it could pave the way for even more media mergers and even less room for independent voices in the media… I know that these corporate elites have all the money and lots of influence — even, it appears, with President Obama’s Department of Justice and an FCC chaired by one of his appointees.”

Josh Silver of the Free Press lamented: “The merger further squeezes what’s left of independent, diverse voices from the television dial, laying waste to President Barack Obama’s promise to reign in runaway media consolidation.” Silver pointed out that candidate Obama, on the campaign trail in 2008, said:

“I strongly favor diversity of ownership of outlets and protection against the excessive concentration of power in the hands of any one corporation, interest or small group. I strongly believe that all citizens should be able to receive information from the broadest range of sources.”

Obama, who promised to “take a back seat to no one” on Net Neutrality, is being accused of selling out the American people. “It’s the same Obama who promised to provide the public option on health care and to end the massive bonuses to Wall Street titans… the list of broken promises is far longer than space allows,” Silver added.

“President Obama is being squeezed by a corrupt Washington that is run by industry lobbyists, fake grassroots groups, massive political spending and PR machines that make the most basic public interest protections impossible to advance. But rather than tell that story, dig in, and fight like a true leader would, Obama has chosen to hire corporate-friendly advisors, compromise on the most crucial substance, and attempt to eke out weak, symbolic, half-victories gift-wrapped in flowery oratory and spin. It’s a losing strategy that has become brutally transparent.”

Here’s candidate Obama, lying about his support for the “free and full exchange of information that starts with an open internet”:

The mega-merger could pave the way for others like it. Companies like AT&T and Verizon may now try to acquire their own media and entertainment empires at the expense of the American people’s access to diverse voices. As it is, a  small group of immensely powerful corporations control what Americans see, read and hear in the mass media. With the The Comcast/NBC-Universal merger now official, that group just got a lot smaller.

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