by Matthew L. Schafer
Federal Communications Chairman Julius Genachowski stopped by the yearly Allen & Co. media mogul retreat Tech Daily Dose reported. The retreat, hosted by the boutique investment firm, began last Wednesday and continued on into the weekend. Noteworthy attendees included Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, and the Goggle team of Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt.
The Allen & Co. retreat takes place in Sun Valley each year, and usually ends up in a few handshakes between the media moguls in attendance. Notable mergers that developed in Sun Valley include the Walt Disney acquisition of ABC, and the Comcast/NBC merger that is currently under review by the FCC.
Ahead of Tuesday’s FCC Chicago hearing on the Comcast/NBCU deal, Genachowski found time to stop at the mogul meeting that The New York Post recently called a collection of cliques including “big tech, big media and big banks.”
Despite making time to head to the Allen & Co. get together, which also played host to Comcast COO Steve Burke, Genachowski will not be attending the FCC’s public hearing on the merger of Mr. Burkes’ company and NBC. Instead, he will reportedly be watching from Washington and opening the meeting with a video message.
Three other commissioners will also be notably absent. An aide to FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell told Broadcasting & Cable that the event was “essentially a staff-level meeting,” while an aide to Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker said Baker will not attend because she is “not expected to.” Commissioner Michael Copps will be the only commissioner attending the day’s events.
Unfortunately, it seems Genachowski will fly to Idaho to meet with a group of executives-including the Comcast COO-but not to Chicago to listen to public concerns about the merger.
“I have also been concerned with the regulatory process this merger has faced…,” Congresswoman Maxine Waters [D-CA], a vocal opponent of the merger, said in response to the handling of the review. “I would like the FCC to hold more public hearings around the country so that the American people get a better idea of the size, scope and implications of this merger.”
The no-show from four fifths of the FCC commissioners has some interest groups calling on Genachowski to re-think his attendance. The media advocacy group Free Press recently released a “wanted poster” for the commissioner, asking him to stop the Comcast merger. Free Press has been a vocal opponent of the merger since it was first announced last year.
“The anti-competitive impact of this merger runs wide and deep. The result would be higher prices, fewer choices and diminished media diversity,” Corie Wright of Free Press said in a statement. “Approval would allow Comcast to own a huge array of popular programs and enable it to exert undue influence over the distribution of those programs on the airwaves, cable and the Internet.”
Free Press isn’t alone as last week saw the launch of the The Coalition for Competition in Media and David Hatch of Tech Daily Dose wrapped up his column on the absence of the commissioners rather bluntly.
“…Why won’t he [Genachowski] hop a flight to Chicago to hear what hardworking inner city residents and struggling South Side families — who won’t be permitted to speak until five hours into the program — have to say about this proposed union?” Hatch wrote.
Despite the protesting of both insiders and citizen advocacy groups, it appears they will have to do with one commissioner. Unfortunately, it seems Genachowski will fly to Idaho to meet with a group of executives—including the Comcast COO–but not to Chicago to listen to public concerns about the merger.
Other attendees for the meeting will include representatives from DISH Network, Princeton University, NetCoalition, Sezmi, Technology Policy Institute, The Nielsen Company, WOW! Internet, Cable and Phone, Media Access Project, The E.W.Scripps Company, Northwestern University, and The Tennis Channel.