For Immediate Release
Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2004
Contact: Susan Herold
(Washington, D.C.) – Today’s proposed takeover of the Walt Disney Co.– which owns ABC News and TV stations reaching 25 percent of the population – by Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider, raises significant questions about media concentration and the impact it will have on consumers’ wallets as well as what they see on TV.
“If this deal goes through it tightens the ownership grip over some of the most important sources of news, information and entertainment in our country,” said Gene Kimmelman, senior public policy director for Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports. “Disney has an enormous package of extremely popular, marquee programming and a national network that would now be owned by the largest cable distributor in the country which has little to no competition in most communities. The potential impact is enormous.”
Comcast serves 21.3 million of the nation’s 72 million cable subscribers, and Disney controls a film studio, ABC, ESPN sports network and TV stations that reach 25 percent of the population via outlets in cities such as New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Kimmelman said Comcast’s offer to buy Disney comes on the heels of another similar corporate mega-merger – the joining of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Corp. with satellite provider Direct TV. This latest proposal would mean ABC, another major network, also would be owned by a pay TV entity.
“Just this week we’ve seen Rupert Murdoch announce that he is raising Direct TV rates, so he is not going to use satellite TV to compete against cable and lower prices, but rather, raise prices. This proposed Comcast deal will just further the enormous consolidation we’ve seen in the industry that has led to less competition and higher costs for consumers.
“The Federal Communications Commission has been on a path to aggressively de-regulate the media and telecommunications industry,” Kimmelman added. “Hopefully, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals will overturn the FCC’s lax media ownership rules and send the Commission back to the drawing board to prevent more massive media consolidation.”