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Lawmaker Calls for More Comcast-NBCU Comments

WASHINGTON: Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), has asked the FCC to extend the deadline for public comment on the Comcast-NBCU merger. She sent a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski asking to have the Media Bureau reconsider its denial for a 45-day extension of the public-comment period on the deal, which closes June 17. The Media Access Project requested an extension to Aug. 1.

Waters, who represents California’s 35th Congressional District, which is 34 percent African American and 47 percent Hispanic, opposes media consolidation for its impact on minority media ownership.

“The FCC must allow the public more time to present information, make arguments and raise questions about the takeover by Comcast--the nation’s biggest cable and broadband Internet company--of NBC Universal, which owns broadcast and cable networks, TV stations and programs, and movie studios,” Waters said in a statement. “A merger of this magnitude would have an enormous impact on virtually every American, and I want to make sure individuals and public interest groups have a chance to be heard.”

“Given the extensive resources needed to participate in a proceeding and the complex and significant nature of this transaction, a 45-day extension is necessary and in the public interest.” she said.

Waters noted that five companies owned the major broadcast networks and 90 percent of the top 50 cable nets; produce 75 percent of prime-time programming; control 70 percent of the time slot market share; and own around 85 percent of the top 20 Internet news sites.

Comcast announced its intention to buy a majority share of NBC Universal in December. The deal would mark the first time a U.S. cable operator would own a controlling interest in one of the nation’s major broadcasting networks. The merger is still going through the gauntlet of regulatory approval. -- Deborah D. McAdams