Senate Commerce Communications Subcommittee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., Thursday called on Federal Communications Commission and Justice officials to focus on ensuring that consumers are protected and that competition is not hampered as it contemplates possible conditions to attach to the proposed merger of Comcast with NBC Universal.
In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Christine Varney, Kerry did not call for blocking the merger as some lawmakers have insisted. Instead, he said he wanted to "reinforce the need for this merger to work for consumers, and enhance innovation and competition. I believe it can, but we count on you to ensure that it does."
He offered praise for Comcast, noting its role as a well-respected employer in his home state, innovator and "an active corporate citizen." He also touted the "meaningful commitments" Comcast and NBCU have made as part of the merger including to "support the production of local news, public affairs and other public interest content going forward."
At the same time, Kerry said regulators should consider offering remedies if the merger would pose a risk to such goals as ensuring consumer access to video content on the Web including programming the merged company will control. In addition, he also noted that the merged company should not "act unfairly as a bottleneck or gatekeeper for critical programming for competing distributors or leverage its distribution network against content that competes with its new property."
Kerry's letter comes a few days after other key lawmakers weighed in on the merger.
Senate Commerce Chairman John (Jay) Rockefeller, D-W.Va., raised concerns about the merger in his own correspondence with the FCC. While incoming House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., who also will play a key role on telecom and tech issues in the next Congress, urged the agency to complete its review of the merger this year, to focus only on the issues that pertain directly to the merger and not use it as an excuse to deal with other policy goals that could hamper investment and innovation.