Comcast-Spectator, Comcast SportsNet, E!
Entertainment Television, Style Magazine, the Golf Channel, Outdoor
Life Network, G4, ABC, ESPN, Lifetime, Disney Television, the
Philadelphia Flyers, Touchstone Television, Jane Magazine, W
Magazine, Los Angeles Magazine, Discover Magazine, Miramax,
Touchstone Pictures, the Philadelphia 76ers, three record labels,
Infoseek, Hyperion Book Publishers, Disney Theme Parks and Cruise
Lines and 11 major local newspapers. Communications giant Comcast
would have possessed all of these companies if its $54 billion
merger with Disney had succeeded. That this list fails to include
the numerous networks and corporations that both Comcast and Disney
hold minority stakes in. Moreover Comcast is also the
nation’s principal cable provider, with over 24 million
subscribers.

Kate Green

Indeed, given its recent business enterprise, Comcast’s
cable division’s slogan, “It’s all about total
viewing control,” is ironic — bordering on frightening.
With the merger, Comcast’s media pre-eminence would inflate
on a two-dimensional level, with its vertical monopoly of cable and
primetime networks augmenting its horizontal expansion as the
nation’s primary cable distributor. The depth and breadth of
Comcast’s media arsenal would be truly astounding and would
transcend borders between print and television. With such an
extensive reach, one can imagine the coercive tactics Comcast could
deploy in attempting to boost its holding value.

While the buyout so far has been unsuccessful, the trend is
obvious. Media mergers will always be a possibility and only strong
opposition from federal regulators and public dissent can keep it
from happening. Indeed, this summer, public outcry forced Congress
to put on hold a ruling that would have opened the airwaves to
increased conglomeration of private ownership.

The concern is that as enormous media companies incessantly
consolidate, the diversity of competitive communications media will
continue to diminish. As these giants fuse, local and independent
media sources are seized or forced out of the market. The ultimate
fear is a scenario in which an unregulated media leviathan has
total dominion over the free flow of information. The multiplicity
of diverse independent viewpoints would be replaced by a
homogenized cultural and political discourse, and the market for
local human interest stories would die out like typewriters and
payphones.

At this point, there are six (the Disney/Comcast merger would
make it five) media conglomerates that control the vast majority of
cable television. If Comcast integrates Disney, its new base will
represent a threat to competing (and at this point, relatively
smaller) corporations. In fear of becoming the next Disney, these
companies will seek their own corporate mergers. New York Times
columnist William Safire explains it best: “Would Rupert
Murdoch stand for being merely No. 2? Not on your life. He would
take over a competitor, perhaps the Time Warner-CNN-AOL combine,
making him biggest again.”

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