Justice Dept. fully investigating Comcast-NBC merger, AG Holder tells Franken

WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice is conducting a full investigation of the potential merger of Comcast and NBC Universal, a union Sen. Al Franken has said makes him “nervous” over the prospect of too much media consolidation.

“I can assure you the department is conducting a thorough investigation of that transaction,” Holder told Franken during a Senate Judiciary hearing today.

Franken’s Senate colleagues have largely deferred to him on the issue, chiefly because he’s a former NBC employee, both from Saturday Night Live and a sitcom called “Lateline” that ran on that network for a short time in the late 1990’s.

Franken has spoken from personal experience to highlight his concerns during earlier hearings, expressing skepticism on voluntary commitments from Comcast and NBC executives designed to ensure competitiveness by saying that they’ll “have to excuse me if I don’t trust these promises, and that is from experience in this business.”

(Note: The L.A. Times has a great, and very detailed, overview of the issue that is well worth the read and can be found by clicking here.)

Franken told me after the hearing that he’s also received assurances that Justice anti-trust officials will be in close contact with his office as their investigation moves forward.

“I know that he really wasn’t in the position to go into much detail” about the case, Franken said. “The answer I did get that I did like is that his office and my office will talk, and the people who are on top of that in the anti-trust division, that we will have a line to them and that’s important to me.”

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