Politico: “Comcast-Time Warner Pay $132,000 to ‘Honor’ FCC Commissioner, With Merger Pending”

Who would ever imagine that two of the biggest telecommunications companies in North America, both of which have effective monopolies on broadband Internet provision, would go out of their way to throw a lavish party at which an FCC commissioner would be honored?

This does not create or present any conflict of interest. No sir, none whatsoever.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the governmental body bound with the duty of regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable. The Telecommunications Act of 1996, one of the Clinton-era laws aimed at deregulation of the converging telecommunications and broadcasting markets, paved the way for increased media consolidation, which was proceeding at an already pitched pace.

The FCC board of commissioners is in charge of reviewing major proposed mergers of media companies such as Comcast Corporation and and Time Warner, Inc. Their up-or-down vote approves or puts the kibosh on mergers such as this.

Just to review, Comcast now owns NBCUniversal, which gives it the NBC television network and all its holdings, plus Spanish language cable channel Telemundo, Universal Pictures film studio, and Universal Parks & Resorts. They also have some little online startup called Hulu. (We’ll have to see if anything comes of this whole “streaming video” nonsense.)

The other partner in the corporate dance, Time Warner, owns Turner Broadcasting System (CNN, HLN, TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network, etc.), and this little film studio called Warner Bros. They also have a small magazine publishing empire, but those apparently don’t get read as much anymore.

These two companies, which in total have around $100 billion in annual revenue, want to merge. That would put more media (cable Internet subscribers, TV channels, magazines, web sites, etc.) in the hands of a smaller number of owners. The net effect is to reduce the variety and scope of media, which is taken in by a great many, while driving further profits that only a few will see. This is consistent with the industry trends. Just like airline consolidation, media consolidation has seen the landscape go to there being 50 owners of major media outlets in 1993, to just five in 2014. That’s a drastic reduction within the recent scope of history. (See above, Telecommunications Act of 1996.)

That in and of itself shouldn’t be too surprising. And perhaps it’s not that surprising that the two international media conglomerates would go out of their way to lavish praise upon one FCC commissioner — particularly when the proposed merger is about to be before the FCC for its consideration.

According to Politico:

“Comcast and Time Warner Cable are sponsoring a dinner honoring FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn at a time when the agency is weighing whether to approve a multibillion-dollar merger between the two companies.

“Comcast will pay $110,000 to be a top-level “presenting sponsor” at the Walter Kaitz Foundation’s annual dinner in September, at which Clyburn is receiving the “diversity advocate” award, according to a foundation spokeswoman. Time Warner Cable paid $22,000 in May to the foundation for the same event, according to a Senate lobbying disclosure filed at the end of last month. The foundation supports diversity in the cable industry.”

(h/t Reader Supported News)

Are you shocked? I’m shocked. Round up twice the number of usual suspects!

Just so long as they’re not FCC commissioners.

By the way: It may seem that this is something that we mere mortals cannot affect. After all, these companies with bazillions of dollars of revenue, they’re too big for us to affect, right? Comcast-Time Warner and network neutrality are beyond your pay grade, right? No, not at all. To find out how you can help, check out freepress.net, home of Free Press and the Free Press Action Fund. According to their site, “Free Press and the Free Press Action Fund do not support or oppose any candidate for public office. We are nonpartisan organizations fighting to save the free and open Internet, curb runaway media consolidation, protect press freedom, and ensure diverse voices are represented in our media.”

You CAN make a difference. Let’s do it!


Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.