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U.S. News and World Report

Strange Bedfellows: Broadcasters and Consumer Groups Align to Oppose Big Media Mergers

Oct 15, 2015  •  Post A Comment

Two media mergers currently in the works have unified broadcasters and consumer-rights groups, two factions that don’t often find themselves on the same side of issues, according to U.S. News and World Report.

“Both are concerned about a pair of proposed cable deals both say could stifle competition and damage Americans’ access to diverse programming and fair pricing for broadband,” the story reports.

The deals both involve Charter Communications — the company’s proposal buy Bright House Networks for $10.4 billion and its move to merge with Time Warner Cable for an additional $55 billion.

The publication reports that the two deals would make Charter the country’s second-largest provider of video and broadband, with the Bright House acquisition affecting 23.9 million customers in 41 states and the TWC deal affecting 20 million subscribers.

The Charter-TWC proposal got rolling after the FCC rejected a bid by Comcast to purchase Time Warner Cable.

This week the consumer rights groups Public Knowledge, Common Cause and Consumers Union filed a joint petition with the FCC in opposition to the Charter proposals, the story reports.

In a statement, John Bergmayer, senior staff attorney at Public Knowledge, said: “Like it did in the failed Comcast and Time Warner Cable merger proposal, the FCC must ensure that the increased market power this deal would give Charter would not harm competition, diversity of programming, or the public interest.”

This time around, the National Association of Broadcasters has also become involved. The story reports that the NAB “joined in scrutinizing Charter’s proposals, which was unexpected since it did not publicly oppose Comcast’s bid. The radio and television trade association petitioned the FCC on Monday that the regulator should not approve Charter’s deals before it conducts a review of media ownership rules — a process which is mandated by Congress every four years.”

The report adds: “The trade association said in its petition that if Charter’s deals are approved then the top four pay-TV operators would control 79 percent of the nation’s subscribers, making it harder for broadcasters to sell advertising and threatening ‘the lifeblood of over-the-air, free-to-all TV services.'”

Charter has previously indicated that it expected the deals to be completed by the end of this year.

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