October 07, 2014




(Washington, DC) -- U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-San Fernando Valley) was pleased to learn that more voices will be heard, regarding a potential merger between Comcast and Time Warner, following a decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to extend the public comment period on the proposed deal.

A similar action was taken by the FCC prior to a proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile. That merger was eventually blocked by the FCC.

Cárdenas believes the extended comment period will allow the public to be reassured that any possible merger between Comcast and Time Warner is fair to consumers; ensures that smaller, independent voices can thrive; and promotes diversity in the media.

“By extending the comment period, the FCC clearly realizes that there are still voices that have legitimate concerns with the merger who still need to be heard,” said Cardenas. “Part of the challenge we face is that many of those concerned with the merger will potentially have to sit across the negotiating table with a new Comcast-Time Warner Cable.  Because this new entity will have such broad control over media production, distribution, cable and broadband, there is a natural chilling effect for many of those voices.  

“As evidenced by its response to initial concerns raised, Comcast has shown a disregard for those who air legitimate concerns and far too often resorts to accusations of extortion and name calling rather than addressing the concerns raised. I hope this extended comment period will allow for a healthy dialogue to take place and that the FCC is able to hear from the many voices affected by this merger and the broader issue of media consolidation.

“I personally have concerns with how smaller, independently-owned companies will be affected by the merger, particularly minority-owned networks already struggling in the current media environment. These companies are critical for providing diverse voices in our media, granting opportunities for those seeking to break into the entertainment industry and preserving the culture of diverse communities.”

A merged Comcast-Time Warner Cable footprint would cover 90 percent of Latino households in the country, including 28 of the 30 markets most heavily populated with Latino viewers.

In August, Cárdenas led more than fifty members of the House of Representatives in a letter to Comcast and Time Warner, focused on ensuring the proposed merger preserves the viability of small, minority-owned independent program providers. The letter asked that “a great deal of care is taken to ensure that as many diverse voices as possible are available to the panoply of Americans who wish to seek them out.”

Cárdenas also hosted a roundtable discussion last week with members of the Writers Guild of America, West. The guild represents more than 8,000 professional writers of motion pictures, television, radio, and Internet programming, including news and documentaries. The Guild expressed concern that a merged company would hinder the pipeline of independent talent being nurtured in the entertainment industry.

Media consolidation has recently touched Cárdenas’ district directly. Last month, he was praised by FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler for helping encourage an interim settlement of a dispute, regarding Dodgers baseball broadcasts, between cable operators and Time Warner Cable in Los Angeles.

During his work on that dispute, Cárdenas has also had several opportunities to discuss the Comcast-Time Warner merger with Commissioner Wheeler.

In those conversations, Cárdenas asked the FCC to closely monitor the proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger, particularly with regard to media consolidation and diversity issues. In an interview with The Hill he said, “I think the FCC should watch that and I’m definitely watching that.”

According to media reports, FCC Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake informed the two companies that answers to questions asked by the FCC were not sufficient, resulting in the extended comment period and a “paused clock” on the FCC’s investigation. Lake said, “Commission staff has found that a number of the answers in each of [Comcast and Time Warner’s] submissions are incomplete.”

The merger comment period will now expire on October 29, rather than the previously set deadline of October 8. The FCC will also perform 95 days further due diligence, following the expiration of the comment period.