A little advance apple-polishing by Comcast on ObamaCare

posted at 2:55 pm on December 4, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Yesterday, I predicted that Comcast would have a tough time getting regulatory approval for its purchase of NBC Universal.  Having a distributor control broadcast content, even indirectly, would set off warning bells in Washington in any administration, let alone one as interventionist as the Obama White House.  The Washington Post reports that Comcast’s acquisition already has Congress and the federal government sounding skeptical at best:

Comcast, the nation’s biggest cable and broadband Internet company, on Thursday announced plans to take over NBC Universal, creating a new kind of media colossus that would not only produce some of America’s most popular entertainment but also control viewers’ access to it.

The roughly $30 billion deal set off immediate reaction from consumer groups and lawmakers in Washington, heralding an epic regulatory battle over concentrating so much power in one company. Almost one in four cable subscribers in the U.S. is a Comcast customer. NBC Universal owns cable networks such as Telemundo, MSNBC and Bravo, TV shows such as Jay Leno’s, regional stations such as Washington’s WRC (Channel 4), and Universal movie studios.

Sens. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Commerce Committee, and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), chairman of the Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, called for hearings to review the deal’s impact on television competition and consumers. Michael J. Copps, a Democratic member of the Federal Communications Commission, said that the merger faces a “very steep climb with me” and that it raises many doubts over whether it would be in the public’s interest. …

The FCC will review the deal to see whether it benefits the public. Antitrust watchdogs at the Justice Department or Federal Trade Commission will scrutinize whether it would harm competition in the market.

Of course, the FCC, the DoJ, and the FTC are all part of the executive branch.  How will Comcast go about making the Obama administration more comfortable with its benign intentions in controlling both content and distribution of entertainment and information?  Noel Sheppard thinks he’s found one particular strategy:

On the same day Comcast announced it was buying a 51 percent stake in General Electric’s NBC Universal, its CEO sent a letter to President Obama supporting the Senate’s healthcare bill.

At virtually the same time, high-ranking Democrats in the House and Senate said Thursday they will closely scrutinize the proposed alliance to determine its impact on the media marketplace.

Coincidence?

Here’s the letter:

Dear Mr. President: [...]

Because of our announcement today that we have formed a joint venture with General Electric consisting of NBCU’s businesses and Comcast’s cable networks, I am unable to attend the Summit. I very much appreciate the outreach to the business community, and want to express one of the thoughts I intended to make at the Summit — that enactment of comprehensive health care reform legislation is, in my judgment, critical to putting this country on a path of sustained growth and prosperity.

As the nation’s largest cable and broadband company with over 100,000 employees in 36 states and the District of Columbia, we are proud to offer health insurance to all Comcast employees. But sadly, there are millions of Americans who simply cannot afford to get sick, as health coverage gets increasingly difficult to secure and the resultant demands placed on federal and state budgets are enormous. This cycle is not sustainable.

While there has been much controversy and debate over hundreds of provisions and alternatives, it is my view that the current legislation pending in the Senate provides a workable framework for this country to take an important step toward enhancing health care accessibility, promoting operational efficiencies and technological innovation, and reducing the cost of health care and the federal deficit. My support of meaningful health care reform is buttressed by the estimate by the Congressional Budget Office that, while the Senate legislation would cost $848 billion, it would also reduce budget deficits by $130 billion over the next decade. A strong dose of fiscal responsibility will be essential to achieve meaningful health care reform and lasting economic recovery. [...]

I want to commend you for your dedication to health care reform and for the remarkable progress that has been achieved in this area under your leadership. We cannot allow perfection to stand in the way of critically needed and very good legislation, which is why I support your efforts. Comcast stands ready to assist you and this nation in the effort to enact sensible health care reform. We also look forward to working with your Administration to make health care information technology the best in the world.

Perhaps the specific timing is coincidental, but the effort does seem like apple-polishing, and perhaps not primarily for the merger.  Comcast is at the center of the net-neutrality debate, too.  The effort to get on the administration’s good side may have more to do with that battle than with smoothing the path of a merger, but this won’t hurt their chances, either.

It seems to me that one presidential candidate made a point of arguing against corporate influence on Washington.  That must only apply for those corporate influences that dissent from the administration’s point of view.  In any case, Brian Roberts appears to be covering his bases, but to what effect?  We shall soon see.  If the White House lets this merger go through, it’s going to make it nearly impossible for them to argue for a revival of the Fairness Doctrine or emphasize local control of broadcast stations.


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Bye bye, Con-cast.

Hello Fios.

Good Lt on December 4, 2009 at 2:57 PM

Just curious: Is Comcast unionized … yet?

Mark Boabaca on December 4, 2009 at 2:59 PM

shouldn’t it be pea-cock polishing?

When else would you get to use that. Really?

lorien1973 on December 4, 2009 at 2:59 PM

At virtually the same time, high-ranking Democrats in the House and Senate said Thursday they will closely scrutinize the proposed alliance to determine its impact on the media marketplace.How much Comcast will donate to their campaign.
Fixed!

faol on December 4, 2009 at 3:00 PM

I wish I had FIOS in NH. Since Verizon sold it off to a company that will probably file Chapter 11 soon (if they haven’t already) because they didn’t want to expand into “rural markets” (since when is the Nashua-Manchester-Salem triangle considered “rural”?) my choices for high-speed internet are Comcast or Comcast.

Believe me I have wanted Comcast out of my house for a long time now. If DirecTV had comprable internet I’d have gone over to them a long time ago.

crazy_legs on December 4, 2009 at 3:02 PM

Just curious: Is Comcast unionized … yet?

Nope.

crazy_legs on December 4, 2009 at 3:02 PM

Was Brian Roberts wearing a blue dress yesterday?

WashJeff on December 4, 2009 at 3:02 PM

Obama, the most corrupt administration in history

faraway on December 4, 2009 at 3:03 PM

Well I was about to switch over to Comcast in the next few months from the local provider here in Katy, TX. Looks like that’s on hold after hearing about this.

Doughboy on December 4, 2009 at 3:04 PM

Apple polishing? Okay, I didn’t know that required knee pads.

CC

CapedConservative on December 4, 2009 at 3:04 PM

Ed, is that logo your mock up?

The only thing missing from the Islamic Crest is Macy’s Red Star.

Nothing like a complete monopoly game in time for Christmas; and the merger occurs in time to promote the legislation to incorporate the news media into the government.

Who’s on the short list for Obama’s Media Czar?

maverick muse on December 4, 2009 at 3:05 PM

Amazing how many books you read without cable around.

maverick muse on December 4, 2009 at 3:06 PM

Apple polishing? Okay, I didn’t know that required knee pads.
CC
CapedConservative on December 4, 2009 at 3:04 PM

Do you mean ‘Nut-waxing’?

Chip on December 4, 2009 at 3:07 PM

Wait a minute. I’m confused. Congress is actually concerned, and worried, and has the publics best interests at heart? Then why are they not scolding the msm’s at their pandering, lying, and biased reporting? hmmmmmmmmm?

capejasmine on December 4, 2009 at 3:07 PM

Separation of Media and State!

cntrlfrk on December 4, 2009 at 3:07 PM

Of course, the FCC, the DoJ, and the FTC are all part of the executive branch.

And Mark Lloyd the FCC Czar will trump them all.

Case closed. The sale will go thru.

Knucklehead on December 4, 2009 at 3:07 PM

The ownership may change but the ass kissing stays the same.

SoulGlo on December 4, 2009 at 3:08 PM

this reminds me to twist Comcast by the nuts the next time I receive a bill.

ted c on December 4, 2009 at 3:08 PM

NBC now NSBC

Chip on December 4, 2009 at 3:09 PM

A little advance apple knob-polishing by Comcast on ObamaCare

Call it what it is. Comcast is one of the biggest pigs swilling at the trough.

jdkchem on December 4, 2009 at 3:11 PM

The effort to get on the administration’s good side may have more to do with that battle than with smoothing the path of a merger

Um Ed, Comcast they will be a content distributor and a content producer if this deal goes through… if they favor themselves then it is exactly about net neutrality… there is no way this merger is going to happen…

ninjapirate on December 4, 2009 at 3:12 PM

So when they install Comcast in the Oval Office, the “On Demand” button will mean something Totally different than on my Comcast Remote.

portlandon on December 4, 2009 at 3:13 PM

Separation of Media and State!

cntrlfrk

NBC now NSBC

Chip

Good /laugh or cry.

maverick muse on December 4, 2009 at 3:14 PM

This is no surprise at all…Big Corporate America has been leading the charge in mainstreaming left-leaning, PC for decades. They will more than gladly pander to Obama and his agenda if they can get what they want. It’s a patronage game and just like GE, they are more than willing to play it…even for a short term gain.

AUINSC on December 4, 2009 at 3:14 PM

Before this is over, Comcast will probably promise the White House they’re giving not just the NBC Nightly News job to Olby but turning over Jay Leno’s weeknight hour to Rachel Maddow…

jon1979 on December 4, 2009 at 3:15 PM

there is no way this merger is going to happen…
ninjapirate on December 4, 2009 at 3:12 PM

I’m not arguing. But they were pounding their puffy chests last night over how MANY specialties they would project themselves.

maverick muse on December 4, 2009 at 3:16 PM

So Comcast is sucking up to Obama by supporting his socialized healtchare? FIOS CAN’T GET HERE SOON ENOUGH. See ya Comcast, you are out of my house as soon as I have another alternative you scum.

Daemonocracy on December 4, 2009 at 3:16 PM

of course, there is the AOL-Time Warner precedent… but AOL was never positioned like to favor their own content like Comcast would be positioned…

ninjapirate on December 4, 2009 at 3:18 PM

NBC now NSBC

Chip

Good /laugh or cry.

maverick muse on December 4, 2009 at 3:14 PM

Yup.

Chip on December 4, 2009 at 3:18 PM

Perhaps they’re unconcerned because their only TV competition in most areas is satellite (which many apartments don’t allow), and they dominate with their internet service…. But shouldn’t they be concerned about Tea Party/9-12er backlash? I’m already fed up with how much I pay these SOBs. I could easily see a massive movement against them, from current customers, arising.

RightWinged on December 4, 2009 at 3:20 PM

Comacast to support “Net Neutrality” in 3..2..

WashJeff on December 4, 2009 at 3:20 PM

Don’t get Outraged!… he’s just looking out for his own interests… there are a lot of people who have written similar letters and nobody really cares about them… it’s just boiler point…

Comacast to support “Net Neutrality” in 3..2..

That will never, ever, ever happen…

ninjapirate on December 4, 2009 at 3:23 PM

Most behemoth company CEOs support ObamaCare. Think of the money they will save if instead of providing health insurance for their employees, the govt gives it to them instead. Sure it will destroy the economy long term. But these people only care about what happens next quarter, not 10 years from now.

angryed on December 4, 2009 at 3:24 PM

I’m so sick of companies sticking it to the American people. Disgusting crony capitalism. I wonder how many of Comcast’s employees support Obamacare. Millions screwed so a single company can benefit

DerKrieger on December 4, 2009 at 3:25 PM

Comcast, those aren’t apples….

cs89 on December 4, 2009 at 3:27 PM

Comcast, those aren’t apples….

cs89 on December 4, 2009 at 3:27 PM

oops, I woke the dog

faraway on December 4, 2009 at 3:28 PM

The other angle is that people who run into a health problem will cancel their cable. Getting the taxpayer to pick up that tab will help Comcast retain their customers.

The fact that Comcast has to quote outdated and distorted figures from the CBO is irrelevant to the fact that they know their customer base has more people at the low end than the high end taxpayers that will get reamed.

pedestrian on December 4, 2009 at 3:37 PM

Amazing how many books you read without cable around.

maverick muse on December 4, 2009 at 3:06 PM

I ditched all three TVs in 2002. Got sick of the mind-rotting bilge. It was cathartic, like an Orphic purification ritual. Books rule.

Geochelone on December 4, 2009 at 3:38 PM

I suppose they hope no one is watching. Wasn’t it Eisenhower who warned America about big business and big government linking up? Saying to Americans ‘we need to favor small business and small government’ … in his “military-industrial” complex farewell speech to the nation.

Coming true.

tarpon on December 4, 2009 at 3:41 PM

National Socialist Broadcasting Company.

Chip on December 4, 2009 at 3:42 PM

Hmm might have to look into Direct-Tv or something like that.And another broadband server.Any suggestions?

theTarCzar on December 4, 2009 at 3:45 PM

What did I say in the last Comcast thread? Oh yeah, that they are a northeastern company so it wouldn’t surprise me if they think like all of the other libs in the Northeast.

Well, what did I tell you?

MobileVideoEngineer on December 4, 2009 at 3:46 PM

Hmm might have to look into Direct-Tv or something like that.And another broadband server.Any suggestions?

theTarCzar on December 4, 2009 at 3:45 PM

I am personally glad that I decided to go to DirecTV. I was loyal to cable for a long time because my wife’s grandparents had DirecTV and it was pretty bad and it would cut in and out so much. However I found out that it was because they were some of the first to have DirecTV so they had an old dish and an old receiver.

I have the DirecTV HD package and I’m really happy with it. Had it for 4 months now and it’s only cut out once and that was because it was raining in sheets.

I have to use Charter for high speed though.

MobileVideoEngineer on December 4, 2009 at 3:52 PM

Ed,
Time Warner Cable and CNN are one company. Isn’t that already a monopoly? In my area of residence there is no other broadband service provider.

antisocial on December 4, 2009 at 4:02 PM

enactment of comprehensive health care reform legislation is, in my judgment, critical to putting this country on a path of sustained growth and prosperity

Pandering, Douchebag, Billionaire CEO

1. If he believes this, then he’s apparently an imbecile.

2. If he doesn’t believe this but said it anyway in an effort to coddle the administration and get his merger $$$, he’s an unethical scumbag.

Either way, I’ll be telling Comcast to go fuc# themselves and I urge everyone else to do the same.

Jaibones on December 4, 2009 at 4:02 PM

Comcast sucks here in south coastal Georgia. It’s DOUBLE the price I paid for basic cable in Charlotte, and access to Fox Business Channel comes at an additional $20 per month on top of their already scurrilous $48 a month for “expanded basic”.
WHY Fox Business is EXTRA on top of “extra” is beyond me other than there’s no competition and they can do it and to hell with the consumer. You want it, pay up. Ahh, yes. Nothing like a monopoly to make you sleep better at night.

bradley11 on December 4, 2009 at 4:07 PM

ok thanks MVEngineer.Its good to hear theyve improved drastically over the “cutting out”

theTarCzar on December 4, 2009 at 4:16 PM

The only important question is…how much blood can the democrats suck from this deal?

right2bright on December 4, 2009 at 5:31 PM

WTF? I might have to go to Direct TV!

lanesmerge on December 4, 2009 at 5:32 PM

I’ve been looking for an excuse to put me over the top and get FIOS.

Looks like I’ve found it.

Spassvogel on December 4, 2009 at 6:23 PM

Spassvogel, do yourself a favor, and GET IT! Although Verizon’s service can be a tad pain in the rear, once you actually get it running, you’ll be happy.

On the flip side, Comcast has always been craptastic in the internet department. that said… if this deal just means I’ll no longer be able to watch MSNBC using Verizon FiOS… well… all I can say is… “HURRY UP DANG IT!!!!”

Razgriez on December 5, 2009 at 2:56 AM