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May 08, 2014

Louie Gohmert Grills Comcast Lawyer: Is Comcast Blocking Glenn Beck's Purchase of a Cable Network in Order to Keep Him Off the Air Until After the 2014 Elections?

He begins his question by noting Beck was interested in buying Al Gore's failed network, Current. Al Gore preferred a different suitor -- the Al Jazeera network -- but only if Comcast would agree to keep the network in its channel line-up.

Comcast agreed to swap Current for Al Jazeera, and Al Gore was able to get a huge payday (consisting of oil money) for his massive failure.

Beck didn't get that channel, obviously.

Now Beck is attempting to buy another failed network. He would like, as Al Gore and Al Jazeera wanted, for Comcast to keep this network on its channel line-up, just as they agreed to let Al Jazeera move into the old Current swap without any complications.

Representative Gohmert reads an email to Comcast's lawyer, who is on the Hill, I imagine, to argue in favor of Comcast's intended mega-merger with Time Warner, for which they need government blessing.

The email -- apparently written to Beck's people from the network he seeks to inquire -- states that he (representing the network) wants to sell to Beck, but that Comcast will refuse to allow a channel swap because they want to keep Beck off the air and do not want Beck influencing voter opinions.

The ailing network apparently owes Comcast $20 million (I'm guessing for unpaid subscriber fees or whatever, but I don't know). Beck has agreed to pay those fees to Comcast, so Comcast would get the $20 million owed from the deal.

But for some reason Comcast refuses to do the deal. The lawyer claims that the network is not designated by Comcast to be a "news and commentary" network and ergo Comcast is within its rights to refuse to allow the swap.

There are several layers of bullshit here. The first one is that a company controls its own alleged internal policies -- they make their policies, and they routinely approve deviations from stated policy.

The Comcast lawyer is attempting to claim that Comcast's hands are tied here-- we've got this policy, you see.

But that's bullshit -- unless Comcast can show that it has never deviated from some alleged policy of refusing such variances in the past.

I'd like to see this lawyer grilled on this point: Obviously the Current-for-Al-Jazeera swap was not automatic, and required some kind of variance/permission from Comcast, as the sale was predicated on presecuring Comcast's blessing before the actual sale went through.

So if they permitted a variance there, why not here? A company cannot simply claim "This is our policy" when they often vary their own policy. They cannot claim policy binds them when it does no such thing.

They need to explain why they permitted the Current-for-Al-Jazeera swap, but are now claiming "It's our policyyyyy" when Glenn Beck proposes an unnamed-network-for-Blaze swap.

The "it's our policyyyyyy" dodge is generally dishonest, offered just as a Shut Up answer to someone. If Comcast has ever altered its policies to accommodate any other sale-and-swap in the past, it cannot simply claim "it's our policyyyy" now, as if that binds them absolutely.

They need to explain why in one case they enforce the policy and in another case apparently find there's some wiggle room in it.

Comcast, by the way, owns MSNBC and MSNBC's child corporation, the little-watched alleged entertainment venture NBC.

Incidentally: For those who say this is a "business decision" which cannot be further scrutinized: Well, just about everything about a cable company is a government creation, starting with the local government's awarding of cable rights to the company.

When you're essentially a creature of government, which government grants you what is either a true local monopoly (in many cases) or a oligopoly, you're not entirely free to let your political freak flag fly. As a creature of government, you cannot engage in viewpoint-discrimination that the government itself (which creates you) cannot engage in.

Furthermore, of course, Comcast is now on the Hill asking for government latitude in a merger with anti-trust implications.

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posted by Ace at 03:21 PM

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