NBC-Comcast merger to reach Senate Commerce Committee next week

The Senate Commerce Committee will weigh the proposed merger of cable giants NBC and Comcast at a hearing scheduled for next Thursday, March. 11, the committee announced today.

Commerce committee staff did not immediately reveal who might testify at that upcoming hearing. However, officials from both NBC and Comcast have appeared before lawmakers four times this year, when the proposed mega-merger faced the scrutiny of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees and the House Energy and Commerce Committee's communications subcommittee.

At each juncture in that debate, the proposed deal has faced a chorus of criticisms from a smattering of federal lawmakers, who together fear the NBC-Comcast combination could stifle cable competition and ultimately cost consumers. 

NBC and Comcast executives have long tried to dismiss those concerns, stressing the merger might actually benefit viewers and smaller television channels in due time. But their assurances have hardly quieted those in the industry who fret any deal that contributes to the quickening consolidation of big media enterprises.

Among the merger's skeptics on hand next Thursday will be Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who said back in December that he had "serious questions" about the merger's impacts on consumers.

“A joint venture of this magnitude would benefit from regulatory oversight," Rockefeller said. "When major media companies swell to control both content and distribution, we need to make sure consumers are not left with lesser content and higher rates.”