Writers Guild protests Comcast-Time Warner deal

 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should block a proposed merger between the country’s two larger cable providers, a union of movie and TV writers told the agency.

In a filing to the commission submitted on Friday, the Writers Guild of American, West, said that the proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable (TWC) “only increases [Comcast’s] ability to limit competition and there are simply no conditions that can undo the harm a merged Comcast-TWC would cause.” 

ADVERTISEMENT
The combined company would control just less than 30 percent of the cable TV market, and about 30 percent of the broadband Internet market. That consolidation, the union said, would give it “the means to limit competition from online video providers like Netflix and Amazon.”

“Comcast’s ability to blackout one-third of television viewers would force networks to agree to terms and rates set by Comcast, harming investment in programming,” it added.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable announced the proposed $45 billion deal last month, but the FCC and Justice Department both need to sign off before it can be approved. Under the proposal, Comcast would gain about 8 million of Time Warner’s 11 million subscribers; the rest would be sold off.

Consumer advocates have been quick to criticize the deal, which they warn would too heavily consolidate the cable market.

The cable companies have countered that they currently do not compete in the same markets, and have pointed to Comcast’s 2011 acquisition of NBC Universal as evidence of its track record.

The Writers Guild, however, claimed that the cable giant had a “pallid” record of living up to its commitments and said that “further action is needed” on conditions of that deal.

Ellen Stutzman, the Writers Guild’s director of research and public policy, is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday about a plan to reauthorize the law allowing satellite companies to beam broadcast signals to some rural subscribers. The panel is scheduled to hold a hearing on the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger on April 2.

 

-- Updated at 5:37 p.m. to correct the Senate committee holding the hearings on the satellite law and the proposed merger.