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Lawmakers Question Comcast, NBC on Jobs, Online Video Competition

Executives for Comcast and NBC Universal returned to Capitol Hill Thursday to defend their proposed $30 billion merger, with lawmakers expressing concerns that the deal would lead to job losses and less diversity in media.

Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts and NBC President Jeff Zucker appeared before the House Judiciary Committee in their third Congressional hearing in recent weeks. Regulators at the Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission will review the merger for approval and for conditions to apply to it to ensure consumers are protected and competition isn't curbed.

In the hearing, Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.) said members of his district could be hurt by job losses that typically come with mergers. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) agreed: “I find it hard to believe any merger could occur without jobs lost.”

Roberts said that because the two companies do not have significant overlap between their businesses, there would not be much incentive to cut jobs. He has promised to invest in NBC. Zucker said the merger could lead to more high-paying jobs that wouldn't be created if NBC didn't have an investment from the cable giant..

But Larry Cohen, president of the Communication Workers of America warned that Comcast didn't keep its promise of retaining employees after its merger with AT&T's broadband business in 2002. And he said the combined company would have an incentive to make its unions weaker.

Some Democratic lawmakers expressed concern that the merger could stifle competition in the nascent market for online video.

"Of particular interest to me is the potential or questiosn of whether this merger will affect the growth of TV delivery over the Internet and whatever impact this could have on the whole net neutrality challenge that faces the country," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).

By Cecilia Kang  |  February 25, 2010; 5:27 PM ET
 
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Comments

This merger is indefensible.

GE made noises about selling its appliances division but scrapped the idea. It should do the same thing here, and for the same reason: Why sell at the bottom?

Posted by: mattintx | February 26, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

GE can sell at the bottom because it can buy an other asset at the bottom. I never saw where NBC fit into GE's portfolio of divisions. Plastics? Energy? Medicine? Sorry.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | February 26, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

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