Creators gotta stick together. That’s why Future of Music Coalition is proud to join Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) in urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to block the proposed merger between cable and internet behemoth Comcast and the slightly smaller behemoth Time Warner Cable (TWC).
We probably don’t have to tell you that both companies routinely win the top (dis)honor for worst customer service. What might be new information is how much control Comcast already has over what you see and hear. If the company is permitted to acquire TWC, they’ll possess unparalleled power over the future for music and video.
Our joint petition to deny the merger, filed before the FCC on August 25, 2014, makes the case that a combined company would reduce opportunities for creators of all kinds—including the folks that write for television and movies, as well as musicians and composers.
Comcast already owns a major entertainment company, NBC-Universal, which puts them in the position of being a content company and the biggest distributor of content. Although the cable giant is pretending to play nice by (supposedly) adhering to conditions from the NBCU merger, including not discriminating against competing content, those provisions expire in 2018. (Net neutrality rules preventing discrimination were tossed out by the courts in January 2014; the FCC is currently working on new ones.)
Given Comcast’s already troubling record of obfuscation and discrimination, should we really just trust that they won’t squeeze consumers while putting the kibosh on competition?
The creators of top-shelf television and video programming understand the dangers of letting one giant company rule over so many aspects of our modern communications infrastructure. Music is a huge part of this ecosystem, from the songs you hear on cutting-edge TV shows like “Breaking Bad” to local cable platforms where musicians and songwriters can reach audiences in their own communities.
Then there’s the problem of a massive Internet Service Provider getting to pick winners and losers online. If Comcast decides that a certain music app is the only one available on its on-demand service, or if they prioritize Internet traffic for companies that can afford to pay big money, musicians could be locked into systems that serve the interests of the biggest companies and not necessarily their own. Comcast is already free to exclude its own products and services from consumer data caps, while slapping subscribers with overages for using other applications. Under such policies, artist-friendly innovations may never get out of the starting gate.
From the press release:
“We have reached a critical juncture in the history of the media, broadband and telecommunications industries,” said WGAW President Chris Keyser. “The FCC must put a stop to this spate of merger madness that threatens every principle of free market economics we deem important and jeopardizes the tremendous potential that the digital age has to offer all of us.”
“This ill-conceived merger is a perfect example of a massive company attempting to ‘control the verticals’ by cementing its dominance in the marketplace while limiting options for creators,” said FMC VP for Policy and Education Casey Rae. “The FCC must reject this brazen power play and the twisted economics it would engender. Creators and the public demand a communications landscape based on access and innovation, not digital hegemony.”
You can read the full filing right here. We’ll keep you updated on developments.