Tags: Comcast | Time Warner | Justice Department | merger

Comcast-Time Warner Deal Faces Hurdles With Justice Department

By    |   Wednesday, 22 Apr 2015 10:15 AM

The Justice Department has increasing concerns about Comcast Corp.'s planned acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc. and how the cable giant intends to conduct business after the merger, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Comcast is hoping that "behavioral remedies" or commitments made by the company to preserve a competitive environment will be enough to appease regulators concerned about the merger, as was the case when Comcast was permitted to acquire control of NBCUniversal in 2011.

In the case of NBCUniversal, Comcast had agreed to certain conditions in the way it would conduct business, promising not to discriminate against online video distributors or retaliate against other networks, cable programmers, or studios for licensing content to Comcast's competitors.

This time around, it appears that similar promises will be harder to sell to government enforcers in part because there are questions about whether the approach with NBCUniversal had worked as intended.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable are due to meet with Justice officials Wednesday to discuss ways to address government concerns that the merger would give Comcast too much power in the cable and Internet markets.

The Journal said that it is unclear what concessions Comcast might offer or whether they would be satisfactory to government regulators.

A Comcast spokeswoman insisted that the company had complied with the earlier conditions, and in some cases exceeded them.

"In addition to the over 150 conditions from the FCC's NBCUniversal Order, we've complied with the DOJ consent decree fully," Sena Fitzmaurice said in a statement, according to the Journal.

Antitrust officials usually seek to make structural arrangements to address concerns about mergers rather than relying on behavioral fixes, the Journal said. Structural fixes might include selling existing businesses or other assets to rivals to maintain levels of competition in the market.

Behavioral remedies are often difficult to enforce, while also requiring the Justice Department to act as a watchdog and enforcement agency.

The Justice Department has declined to comment on the case but the department's current antitrust chief, Bill Baer, has in the past signaled that he does not favor the use of behavioral remedies to address concerns about mergers.

And at an American Bar Association antitrust conference last week, Deputy Assistant Attorney General David Gelfand said the department had a "strong preference" for using structural remedies, though he did not make specific mention of the Comcast deal.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and five other lawmakers have petitioned the government to block the merger, citing concerns about competition and the effect on consumers.

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The Justice Department has increasing concerns about Comcast Corp.'s planned acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc. and how the cable giant intends to conduct business after the merger, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Comcast, Time Warner, Justice Department, merger
418
2015-15-22
Wednesday, 22 Apr 2015 10:15 AM
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