Former NBC star Al Franken, now a Democratic Senator from Minnesota, put Comcast Chairman Brian Roberts and NBC Universal President Jeff Zucker through a grilling during a Senate hearing on Comcast’s proposed takeover of NBCU, B&C reports.
With his aggressive questioning, Franken—a former writer and performer on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”–made it clear he didn’t think the merger was a good idea, suggesting that any promises the companies made about serving the public interest couldn’t be trusted.
For example, according to the report, "Franken argued that while NBC said back in the early 1990’s that allowing networks to own a financial stake in prime time would not edge out independent programmers, that had been the result. Zucker countered that of 18 new pilots, seven, or 39% were not affiliated with NBC, which he said was a large percentage. Which means 60% are, Franken countered."
And Franken intimated Roberts might have misled him in a meeting they had to discuss the merger; Roberts replied that it had been a misunderstanding.
C-SPAN covered the hearing, and if you click here you can watch it. It’s about two hours long. If you’re interested in the fireworks between Franken, Roberts and Zucker, that starts at about the 1:20 mark.
At an earlier House subcommittee hearing, Roberts and Zucker talked up the deal’s benefits, arguing that a larger company could be more innovative, and would continue to protect its competitors’ access to programming and distribution. Roberts also reiterated that there are no plans to move NBC and Telemundo off broadcast to cable.
–Elizabeth Jensen and Chuck Ross