Progressives’ anti-merger mania

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The proposed merger between the cable systems of Charter Communications, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks has brought out the usual poseurs in opposition. I speak, of course, of such as Common Cause, Consumers Union and Public Knowledge (all of which are wrong in their usual and tiresome way, but not certifiable) and their more extreme kin, Media Alliance and Free Press.

{mosads}As it happens, there exists a bridge between these armies of progressivism in the person of former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Michael Copps. Since leaving the FCC, Copps has flocked to the aid of those organizations he favored when he was a commissioner. So it is that the gentleman is now on the board of the Free Press and a “special adviser” to Common Cause.

Which, of course, is why it’s important to know the kinds of things he’s saying about the merger. Writing in Common Dreams (“Breaking News and Views for the Progressive Community”), Copps relieves himself of opinions like these:

[T]his merger would create a new Comcast — a national cable giant with the ability and the incentive to thwart competition, diversity, and consumer choice. …

Thanks to services like Netflix, Hulu and Sling, television is in the midst of a creative renaissance. … Now, just when competition is finally gaining traction, the Comcast-Mega Cable duopoly could crush it. …

That kind of dominance leads to homogenization of content and the marginalization of independent voices, cutting right to the heart of the public interest in diverse cable offerings that give consumers a broad range of perspectives on the issues of the day. …

The bottom line is that this merger is no less threatening to consumers than the Comcast-Time Warner Cable tie-up would have been. It points a dagger directly at competition, diversity in programming, and consumer rights.

In the face of the facts, comments like these are not just over the top, they are of a piece with the kind of codswallop Copps was famous for in his FCC days. See, for instance, my piece titled “Michael Copps’ Excellent Adventure.”

The merger wouldn’t create a company with the ability to “thwart competition” any more than Comcast has thwarted competition, and the idea that it would undermine “consumer rights” is nothing more than a resort to the kind of rhetoric intended to send progressives into action. Moreover, isn’t it droll, Copps’s unfortunate mention aside, that Netflix has come out in support of the merger?

Every once in a while, relationship charts reveal not just linkages but aspects of things that are positively piquant. So it is with Copps’s relationship with Free Press. As it happens, the president of Free Press, Ben Scott, was formerly a legislative aide to then- Rep. (and now Sen. and Democratic presidential candidate) Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Whatever the pros and cons of the Charter and Time Warner Cable merger — and there are many more of the former than the latter — it speaks volumes to know about the kinds of people who are in opposition to it.

Maines is president of the Media Institute. The opinions expressed are those of Maines alone and not of the institute’s trustees, advisory councils or contributors.

Tags Bernie Sanders Bright House Networks Charter Communications FCC Federal Communications Commission merger Michael Copps Time Warner Cable
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