When news of Comcast's merger with NBC broke, a wave of discontent swept through the media echo chamber. Pundits spoke of an unprecedented corporate takeover of the Internet, broadcast, and cable networks. They worried about it triggering increased consolidation of media among the new giant's competitors. The
Washington Post's business reporter Steven Pearlstein, however, has cut
against the grain in support of the $30 billion merger. It's a position
that conflicts with his instincts: "Normally," he says, "I'm rather skeptical about mega-mergers."
But in recent years, Pearlstein argues, mega-mergers such as AOL-Time Warner have only imperiled the companies' shareholders, not the general public. Imposing anti-trust laws on the Comcast-NBC merger would be a mistake. Instead, he thinks the merger presents an opportunity for the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission to "craft a set of regulations for this new media world that would apply not only to Comcast-NBC, but to all competitors." The regulatory overhaul would protect consumer choice and encourage competition. He maps it out:
Broadly speaking, these rules should ensure that consumers can purchase the digital content and services they want, from whomever they want, without having to buy bundles of services or content that they don't want.
They should guarantee that independent creators of content have fair and reasonable access to distribution networks of vertically-integrated competitors such as Comcast-NBC.
They should ensure that independent distribution networks have fair and reasonable access to the content of vertically-integrated competitors.
And, yes, they should allow vertically integrated companies that invest in both distribution networks and content creation to earn a competitive return on their risk and their investment.