Comcast-TWC: Detroit LPTV vs. New York’s Mayor

Merger docket generates thousands of comments
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WASHINGTON—A low-power Christian TV station in Detroit is supporting Comcast’s bid to merge with Time Warner Cable, while the major of New York is throwing up red flags.

Terry Arnold, senior vice president and general manager of WLPC-CD of Detroit filed a letter with the Federal Communications Commission saying that Comcast valued the LPTV operation, a minority-owned Class A that offers Christian programming to 1.2 million Detroit households, and twice that number outside the metro area on the operator’s systems.

“Our relationship with Comcast Goes beyond our carriage agreement with the company, which we certainly value,” Arnold said. “We also respect the Comcast true commitment to diversity and view Comcast as an excellent corporate citizen in our community…. We therefore support Comcast’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable.”

There are more than 10,000 comments filed on the Comcast-TWC merger docket, No. 14-57. Another Christian LPTV, WEDE-CD in Chicago, was not so warm and fuzzy.

“The consolidation of Comcast is a continuing threat to religious voice and diversity, which is only increased by the monopolistic practices that Comcast is able to leverage in the cable market, and African-American and other diverse communities will be further marginalized if the FCC approves this transaction,” WEDE said in comments filed by Timothy W. Wright, III.

The mergers numerous skeptics include New York City Major Bill de Blasio, who is pushing the FCC along with other “local chief executives,” to impose Internet network neutrality rules and other public interest obligations on the merged companies. In addition to ’net neutrality, de Blasio specifically cited business services and the combined companies’ monopolization of the cable ad market in New York.

“The city is home to an estimated 7,000 high-tech firms ranging from large, longstanding operators to small start-ups,” de Blasio wrote.

Those firms are concerned that Comcast will raise prices on business services even as they have less incentive to address customer service concerns because they’ll own the market.

“This is alarming given both Comcast’s and Time Warner Cable’s already poor customer satisfaction ratings,” de Blasio said.

With regard to the cable ad market, de Blasio said Comcast would control 72 percent of the top 25 interconnects through which local and regional cable ads are sold in the local market.

“This extreme degree of consolidation threatens to make it more difficult and expensive for area businesses to secure local advertising opportunities that are essential to their success,” de Blasio said.