August 2010 Archives

August 5, 2010 5:41 PM

BIF-PIB Redux: Doo. Dah. Dippity!

No reason to even apologize about the fact that I haven't been blogging much recently (relative to my normal furious pace of about 1 every 10 days)--and I'm not apologizing.  I could make a lot of excuses (and, believe me, I do!).  But, hey, there just hasn't been a whole lot of FCC Policy to be blogging about.  Don't take my word for it--even Harold Feld 
says so
--and he's a prodigious blogger.  Blame Chairman Genachowski.  My personal laziness is purely coincident.

However, I do have one slightly timely follow-up point on my last post on video competition.  Earlier this week, Mr. "PIB" (Party in Back, in the mulletary sense of the term) made his appearance on the Comcast-NBC merger.  How so?

Well, Congressman Rick Boucher, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet concluded his investigation into the Comcast-NBC Universal merger and deemed it to be not a threat to competition.  In fact, he sent letters to the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division and to the FCC, urging expeditious approval of the merger to "ensure continued consumer access to content." 

Who could argue?  After all, the antitrust and consumer protection laws were founded on the principle that the best way to ensure that consumers receive maximum access to a good or service was to let one company control as much of that market as possible.  Or maybe that was the principle on which the Hudson's Bay Company, and the British East India Company were founded.  Hmmm?  One or the other . . .  

Competition or mercantilism, toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe . . . . No matter; the top dog on this subject matter at the House of Representatives told the reviewing agencies to fold up tent, conclude that the industry is competing like heck out there, approve the merger, and crack open a cold Bud Light!  This is some serious political cover:  the political version of "The Eagle Has Landed." 

Of course, I could always be wrong, and the reviewing agencies could continue their own investigations, and make an independent assessment of how the merger will affect competition in the markets for video programming and video distribution.  But . . . why would they bother?  It's summertime and the livin' is easy.

Now, we just sit back and watch, listen and learn, as the story unfolds about the competitive irrelevance--nay, benefits--of vertical concentration in the subscription video market.  But be careful out there, partner, with trying to make a general assumption about vertical integration in communications markets.  Woe to anyone who makes that same mistake about vertical contracts between service providers and handset manufacturers in the mobile wireless market!  The Party in Back is strictly for incumbent video providers and programmers . . .