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WGA & Congressman Cardenas oppose Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger

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MUMBAI: Congressman Tony Cardenas (CA-29) added his voice to the growing list of public officials, consumer groups and businesses that are opposed to allowing Comcast’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable. During a briefing held at the headquarters of the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) and attended by representatives of legislative offices from across the L.A. region, Cardenas officially stated his opposition to the deal.

“Today I announce my strong opposition to the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger. I ask the FCC, the DOJ, and the California Public Utilities Commission to deny this merger because it is bad for consumers, will harm competition, will lead to less diverse content, more expensive cable and internet access, and will eliminate good jobs in California. If approved, the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger will drastically change the landscape for media and broadband internet service in America. The pending merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable will enable an increased market dominance that will have a particularly negative impact on diversity of content and minority communities,” said Cardenas.

“Mergers that increase the power of content gatekeepers do not serve the interests of consumers or creators. Comcast has already stated that if the merger is allowed it will save money by paying less for content. This means that programmers will have less money to invest in content, which means less creativity, less innovation and less product. This could translate into fewer jobs, including right here in Los Angeles. While approval of this deal once seemed an inevitable outcome, the issues raised here today and over the last year make clear that the appropriate action for state and federal regulators is to say no to the merger,” added WGAW president Chris Keyser.

Presentations given by the WGAW, The Greenlining Institute, Entravision Communications Corporation, Sports Fans Coalition, and Presente.org detailed the far-reaching effects the merger will have on consumers, independent programmers and content creators, diverse communities, sports fans, and businesses throughout the Southland. New research conducted by the WGAW concludes that should the merger take place, Comcast’s increased buyer power as a distributor of television and the Internet will lead to higher prices for consumers, fewer content choices and less diverse and innovative content. Virtually no one in the L.A. region will be left untouched by this mega-merger.

L.A. Consumers are almost certain to face higher prices for cable and Internet service, more restrictions on how they can access the content they want and worse customer service. Local consumers will have little choice but to accept this new reality because for 72 per cent of Los Angeles County residents living in Comcast’s proposed footprint, Comcast will be the only choice for high-speed broadband.

Latinos across the country and here in Los Angeles will be harmed if this merger is approved. Comcast’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable would allow it to reach more than 90 per cent of Latino households nationally and become the dominant pay TV provider in LA, the largest Latino media market. Comcast will have make or break power over programmers trying to reach this audience. In addition, the company’s higher prices will hit local Latino consumers even harder, because with a median income of $21,314, compared with $44,929 for Anglo-Americans, they make significantly less than their white counterparts.

Moreover, 78 per cent of African American residents and 73 per cent of Asian residents living in Comcast’s proposed LA County footprint will have no other choice for broadband service that offers speeds of 25 Mbps or faster.

Local sports fans can expect higher prices or less access to home team games if the merger is approved. Already, 70 per cent of Angelenos do not have access to the local Dodgers channel because of Time Warner Cable’s anticompetitive pricing policies. The problem will only get worse if Comcast takes over Time Warner Cable and Charter systems locally because the bigger the cable provider gets, the more it charges competitors for access.

The Creative Community will see Comcast increase its ability to pay less for programming and strangle the growth of online video, threatening the new “golden age of programming” we are currently living in.

Independent and Diverse Programmers will face a larger, vertically integrated distributor that controls 30 per cent of the pay TV market and 50 per cent of the high-speed broadband market, giving it tremendous bargaining power over programmers. For Latino-oriented independent programmers, the situation is even worse because Comcast owns several Spanish-language networks and has both the incentive and ability to limit content competition.

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