Thursday, July 22, 2010

Comcast increased lobbying during bid to take over NBC

Comcast Corp., the largest U.S. cable provider, boosted spending on lobbying and increased political donations as it sought approval to take over the operations of General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal.
Comcast spent $6.9 million to lobby the federal government during the first half of the year, up from $6.1 million during the same period in 2009, new congressional filings show.

Comcast also increased its political action committee donations, giving $2.1 million between Jan. 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010, up from $1.6 million during the same period two years earlier. GE, based in Fairfield, Conn., also increased its lobbying expenditures.

"We've come to a period in which money talks with particular force," said Mark Cooper, research director for the Consumer Federation of America, who opposes the NBC deal.

Sena Fitzmaurice, a spokeswoman for Philadelphia-based Comcast, said that many donations were made before the merger was announced Dec. 3 and that there are other telecommunications issues on the table.

The Federal Communications Commission is looking at how it can regulate Internet access. Comcast opposes new rules.

The proposed takeover, subject to Justice Department and FCC approval, would give Comcast control of NBC's television network; broadcast stations in markets including New York, Los Angeles and Miami; cable channels such as USA Network and Bravo, and a library of more than 4,000 movies.

Comcast has said it would not favor NBC in negotiations to carry the signals of other TV networks and has pledged to add a Latino member to its board of directors. The company also promised not to shift major sporting events such as the Olympics or National Football League games to cable.

Opponents say Comcast-NBC will have an incentive to raise prices and withhold programs from rivals.

"Comcast's proposed takeover of NBC will mean higher prices, fewer choices and less competition," said Corie Wright, policy counsel for Free Press, a Washington-based advocacy group.

Comcast to add Hispanic to board of directorsReal Estate Outlook: After the Credits