Brian Brady, chairman of Fox's affiliate board, told BusinessWeek on Wednesday that he feared Comcast would give NBC "something I can’t get or afford..." He later said Fox, ABC and CBS all share “have genuine concerns about being at a competitive disadvantage."
That sentiment echoed comments made earlier in the week by Tim Busch, chairman of the CBS Television Network Affiliates Association. Busch implored federal officials in a letter to explore "certain regulatory conditions" that would ensure affiliate stations' fair treatment. However, his letter did not specify exactly what those conditions should be.
But Comcast has stressed it remains open to discussing those concerns and others with all of the players involved in the merger, including the affiliate stations that sounded off this week.
"Comcast is in discussions with a variety of stakeholders, including affiliates of the major broadcast networks and appreciates the constructive way in which they are approaching the discussions,” a spokesperson for the company said Thursday
Still, the company's assurances have hardly satisfied many of the interest groups that have opposed the merger from the start. Among them is Free Press, which described affiliate stations' latest concerns as an example of the merger's "anti-competitive impact" on the entire television market.
"The affiliates join a growing roster of industry and public interest groups that fear that Comcast's takeover of NBC will have disastrous results for competition," said Corie Wright, policy counsel at Free Press. "Most importantly, it is consumers that will ultimately foot the bill for this deal through diminished choice and ever increasing cable rates."
"We look forward to the affiliates’ ideas on how to possibly lessen the negative impacts of this merge," Wright continued. "But given the threats to competition this merger poses, it is unlikely they can be remedied by anything but an outright rejection of this deal."
However, insiders expect both the FCC and Department of Justice to approve the Comcast-NBC mega-merger in the coming months.