Two consumer groups have petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to block the proposed merger of General Electric and Cox Broadcasting -- which, if allowed to go through, would be the largest broadcast merger in history.
The National Citizens Committee for Broadcasting and the Committee for Open Media opposed the merger on three grounds:
General Electric "lacks the requisite corporate character to hold a license from the FCC," because of past corporate conduct, including violation of antitrust laws and "corporate misconduct in the fields of labor relations, occupational safety, equal employment opportunity and water polution," the groups said.
Granting of the merger would give GE five VHF stations in the 50 largest television markets in the country."This would violate the FCC's policy of limiting group owners to two VHF stations in those markets unless compelling public interest considerations are shown," the filing contended.
The merger has "serious antitrust implications," the groups claim. "If completed, the merger would increase the potential audience of GE-owned stations three-fold, and would more than double its potential radio audience," they said.
General Electrical is the largest corporate entity in the United States that holds broadcasting licenses, the petition pointed out, raising concern over media concentration.
"The trend toward concentration in media generally poses grave threats to consumer interests, as fewer and fewer corporations control more and more of the airwaves," said Sam Simon, executive director of the NCCB.
"It becomes especially serious when one of the nation's 10 largest corporations, whose character is very much in doubt, seeks such a huge increase in its media power," he added.
GE now operates three AM radio stations, five FM radio stations and three VHF television stations. The merger would increase the company's holdings to six AM stations, seven FM stations and five VHF television stations.
GE would be adding television stations in Oakland, Calif., Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C., and radio stations in Los Angeles, Miami, Philidelphia and Dayton as well as picking up a Metromedia station in Baltimore.