You can bet that government officials and opponents of Comcast’s $45.2B planned acquisition of Time Warner Cable will scrutinize its just-released third annual report describing how it has fulfilled the promises it made in 2011 to win FCC approval for the deal to buy NBCUniversal. Opponents already say the cable giant can’t be trusted. “To the extent that Comcast has a history of breaching its legal obligations to consumers, such history should be taken into account when evaluating Comcast’s proposal for future market expansion,” Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said last week in a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. But Comcast says the new 90-page report shows that it has “continued to meet and in many cases exceed our obligations.” For example, it says that its Internet Essentials program has provided home broadband service to more than 250,000 low income families, and has exceeded by 64 the requirement to provide courtesy video and broadband to an additional 600 schools, libraries and community institutions in underserved areas. (The company says that tomorrow it will “make an important announcement about the future of the [Internet Essentials] program.”) For online video Comcast says it has “new or renewed agreements with Amazon and Netflix, among others” resulting in a third year in which it has made these deals to provide programming to potentially competitive services without having to go to arbitration.
The number of children’s shows on its VOD platform averaged 6,871 per month last year, up from 2,778 before it bought NBCU. And Comcast says that it has beefed up local news, offering 2,500 regularly scheduled hours on its 10 NBC-owned stations last year, “surpassing the requirement to add 1,000 hours of new, local news programming by approximately 1,500 hours.” Meanwhile its Telemundo Station Group aired about 2,300 hours of regularly scheduled local news which, Comcast says, “exceeds the requirement in this condition by approximately 1,300 hours.”
Comcast says little about Bloomberg TV’s claim that the cable giant violated its agreement to not discriminate against competitors by giving the business news channel a position on the dial that’s far from NBCU’s CNBC. The FCC largely sided with Bloomberg in September. Comcast says that the case has been appealed and it “has fully repositioned Bloomberg Television in all relevant markets in accordance with the Commission’s order.” The report doesn’t mention Tennis Channel’s complaint that Comcast discriminated by putting it on an extra-fee sports tier, which it didn’t do for two similar sports channels that it owns: Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network. The FCC agreed with Tennis Channel in 2012. But an Appeals Court overruled the regulators, saying that the evidence could also show that Comcast made a simple financial judgment that few subscribers wanted to watch tennis. Last week the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of that ruling.
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