Before the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger can be implemented in California, it must be approved by the state’s Public Utilities Commission. Speaking before the California PUC earlier this week, PTC President Tim Winter pointed out the way the two cable giants have openly defy the law.
BEFORE THE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
April 14, 2015
Statement by Timothy F. Winter
President, Parents Television Council
My name is Tim Winter and I am president of the Parents Television Council. The PTC is a national non-profit, non-partisan, grassroots organization. More than 1.3 million Americans have joined the PTC’s mission to protect children from graphic sex, violence and profanity in entertainment; and of that total, nearly 100,000 of our members hail from the Golden State. PTC members are concerned about the increasing amount of horrendously graphic violence and pornographic content that has become part of the forced-bundle of basic cable programming.
I ask the PUC today to consider an extraordinary and, thus far, successful of sleight-of-hand effort by the cable industry generally, and by Time Warner and Comcast specifically, that has resulted in a tremendous burden to California consumers.
In order to provide service to Californians, cable companies must enter into a statewide franchise agreement. One of the very first conditions stated in the California franchise agreement is for providers “to comply with all applicable consumer protection laws.” Yet in recent days Time Warner Cable has told a state court that California consumer protection laws don’t apply to its business conduct.
In that state court case, which is called Fischer v. Time Warner Cable, a group of California consumers has objected to TWC’s forced-bundling of two Los Angeles Lakers networks and one Los Angeles Dodgers network onto the basic subscription package for all of its subscribers. Those networks reflect a cost of over one hundred dollars per year per subscriber to each and every TWC subscriber.
TWC and Comcast, like other cable operators, have told the Congress that forced network bundling is not a matter for legislative review; while telling the FCC that forced bundling is not a matter for regulatory review; while telling the judiciary that forced bundling is not a matter for legal review.
We urge the PUC to consider the intentional efforts of TWC and Comcast to avoid any and all public accountability for violating California consumer protection laws. We urge this Commission to see through the carefully-crafted corporate smokescreen of the cable companies. We urge this not only because of the reality of the current anticompetitive marketplace for video subscription services, as demonstrated by TWC’s forced bundling of Lakers and Dodgers networks at a cost of over $100 per year per subscriber; but also because it appears that TWC and Comcast intend to expand their cartel-like practices into broadband internet services in order to insulate themselves from any real future competition in that space as well.
On behalf of PTC members in California, and indeed on behalf of all my fellow Californians, I respectfully urge this regulatory body not to grant a merger that is so clearly not in the public interest.
These comments were entered into the permanent record of the Public Utilities Commission hearing.