Despite Throwing Money At Congress, Comcast Finds Merger Support Hard To Come By

from the money-can't-buy-you-love dept

Poor Comcast. Despite throwing millions of dollars at think tanks, consultants, PR reps, editorial writers, various front groups and a myriad of other policy tendrils, genuine, meaningful support for the company's $45 billion Time Warner Cable acquisition is still apparently hard to come by. You might recall that last year top Comcast lobbyist "Chief Diversity Officer" David Cohen proudly crowed that support for the company's merger was "pouring in" -- though he failed to mention that Comcast was paying people for that support, and that said support largely consisted of regurgitated form letters.

Despite the money spent however, it appears that actual support in Congress for the deal is tepid to non-existent. Comcast's hometown paper the Philadelphia Inquirer points out that whereas the NBC deal saw major support efforts by members of Congress, politicians appear to want nothing to do with this latest merger attempt:
"When Comcast made its move to buy NBCUniversal, more than two dozen letters from Congress - including one from 22 Republicans - landed at the Federal Communication Commission early in its review. Dozens more, from key chairmen and rank-and-file members of both parties, arrived before that deal was approved in 2011. The vast majority supported the merger, including one signed by 97 House members and several from minority lawmakers who hailed Comcast's commitment to diversity. But as the Philadelphia giant now pushes a merger with Time Warner Cable, Comcast has had little congressional support, and almost none outside its home state."
While politicians are happy to take Comcast's money, it appears that few actually want to be publicly associated with a company with the lowest consumer approval rating in any industry. Even Comcast's sleazy tactic of paying minority groups to parrot support (to create the illusion of diversity in Comcast policy support) isn't working very well anymore:
"Meanwhile, more than 50 black, Hispanic, and Asian members of Congress have expressed concerns about the impact of this deal and others, warning in a letter to the FCC that recent media "mega-mergers" show that "even the most reasonable conditions and diversity pledges" have proved difficult to enforce."
Most analysts meanwhile see the chance of the DOJ and FCC merger getting approval dropping by the week. The FCC has been on an uncharacteristic consumer-friendly tear of late, whether that's raising the definition of broadband to 25 Mbps, crafting new net neutrality rules or fighting for municipal broadband. As such, approving the Comcast deal without some tougher-than-usual conditions just doesn't seem likely. I personally think the deal will be approved, it will just be saddled with conditions heavily focused on keeping Comcast's bad ideas far away from internet video. Whether those conditions actually work or are enforced will be another issue entirely.

Meanwhile, it's kind of amusing to see telecom companies failing to recognize their own hubris isn't helping their case. As we saw when the DOJ rejected AT&T's attempted acquisition of T-Mobile, there really is a limit to the amount of bullshit you can push before you reach the point of diminishing returns. Using astroturf, claiming that killing competitors creates competition and lowers prices -- or that everyone who opposes your deal is ignorant or irrational -- clearly crosses that particular Rubicon. If you're already one of the most hated companies in the country, that only adds insult to injury.

It remains frequently uttered because it's true: money just can't buy you love.

Filed Under: congress, mergers, politics, support
Companies: comcast, time warner cable

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2015 @ 4:06am

    One of the problems is that the cost of buying out (and owning) a Congressman or federal bureaucrat has gone up substantially in recent years, as more and more competing interests are throwing money their way. Newspaper columnists and media pundits, however, are still reportedly available quite cheap.

    Comcast has no doubt learned that budgeting the same amount of lobbying money that it took to buy out Congress in 2011 for the NBC merger approval will simply not cut it in 2015. The solution is simple: start by writing bigger checks -- to everyone. Then move on to the FCC commissioner's friends and families -- patronize their businesses, offer them jobs, marry their daughters if needed ... whatever it takes!

    Get that revolving door well-oiled and humming! Be the next Goldman Sachs!

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