Corporate Power/Consolidation

Naomi Klein on how corporate branding has taken over America

Naomi Klein, The Guardian

In May 2009, Absolut Vodka launched a limited edition line called "Absolut No Label". The company's global public relations manager, Kristina Hagbard, explained that "For the first time we dare to face the world completely naked. We launch a bottle with no label and no logo, to manifest the idea that no matter what's on the outside, it's the inside that really matters."

A few months later, Starbucks opened its first unbranded coffee shop in Seattle, called 15th Avenue E Coffee and Tea. This "stealth Starbucks" (as the anomalous outlet immediately became known) was decorated with "one-of-a-kind" fixtures and customers were invited to bring in their own music for the stereo system as well as their own pet social causes – all to help develop what the company called "a community personality." Customers had to look hard to find the small print on the menus: "inspired by Starbucks". Tim Pfeiffer, a Starbucks senior vice-president, explained that unlike the ordinary Starbucks outlet that used to occupy the same piece of retail space, "This one is definitely a little neighbourhood coffee shop." After spending two decades blasting its logo on to 16,000 stores worldwide, Starbucks was now trying to escape its own brand.

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Why the Kankakee County Farm Bureau hates net neutrality

Nate Anderson, Ars Technica

The Kankakee County Farm Bureau wants to stop net neutrality. So does the Erie Neighborhood House, along with Downtown Springfield Inc, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties, and the mayor of North Chicago.

The organizations all share several things: they are located in Illinois, they want the FCC to focus on broadband adoption rather than net neutrality, and... they all have connections to AT&T.

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Justifce department to take up antitrust review of Comcast-NBC deal

Cecilia Kang, Washington Post

Justice Dept. to take up antitrust review of Comcast-NBC deal

Comcast's proposed $30 billion merger with NBC Universal will be reviewed by the Justice Department for potential antitrust violations, according to sources. The merger will also be reviewed by the Federal Communications Commission for the transfer for broadcast licenses and to see how the union could affect the public.

Every merger goes through an antitrust review by either Justice or the Federal Trade Commission. According to sources familiar with the decision, Justice's antitrust division will head up the job of determining how the deal will impact competition in the video, cable and media industries.

The deal marries the nation's largest cable and broadband Internet operator with a media giant with one out of every five hours of television content under its roof.

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Net neutrality, "TV Everywhere," and other cable industy assaults on open television

Marvin Ammori, Huffington Post

Yesterday, the largest cable company in the nation, Comcast, launched a product called Fancast Xfinity. Xfinity is the brand name of Comcast’s product, but the rest of the cable industry is planning to roll out something similar. They’re part of a cable-industry-wide initiative known in the industry as “TV Everywhere.” The point of this initiative is actually to kill online TV and make sure people keep paying their cable subscriptions.

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Comcast-NBCU Is bad For broadcasting

TVNewsCheck

Within hours of the announcement last week that Comcast had agreed to acquire a controlling interest in NBCU and its vast array of broadcast and cable properties, Andy Schwartzman of the Media Access Project sent out an e-mail to reporters raising concerns and calling on the government to scrutinize it carefully.

No one in Washington policymaking circles was surprised.

For more than three decades, Schwartzman has been working for open and diverse media -- that is, policies that limit media concentration, insure access to media by citizens and encourage diversity in media ownership.

Those goals have regularly brought him into conflict with media companies and their seemingly irresistible urge to merge. The battles have been fought mostly at the FCC and in the courts.

In this interview with TVNewsCheck Editor Harry A. Jessell, Schwartzman spells out some of his concerns about the Comcast-NBC combination, which includes his belief that it will put all TV broadcasters outside of the NBC family at risk. He also explains why the FCC's cash-for-spectrum proposal is a bad idea.

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Concerns about Comcast-NBC merger

New York Times

With technology changing Americans’ media experience at breakneck speed, it might seem quaint to worry about the merger of an old-style cable company with a beleaguered broadcast TV company. But there is much to be concerned about in Comcast’s proposed takeover of NBC and its sister company Universal Studios.

The pairing of the nation’s largest cable company with one of the leading television broadcasters, which also owns several popular cable networks, could limit choices and raise prices for viewers and advertisers. As they evaluate the proposed merger, antitrust and communications watchdog agencies should also consider the risks to the emerging business of delivering video entertainment over the Internet — the main competitive threat to cable TV.

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Why the FCC should stop Comcast from buying NBC

David Coursey, PC World

Comcast's proposed $30 billion purchase of NBC Universal is a bad deal for consumers, as well as for net neutrality.

If approved, the purchase will create yet another instance where a company that delivers digital content will have a profit motive to discriminate against other content providers.

The FCC should stop this deal, partially because it furthers media consolidation into too few hands, but also because it flies against the prevailing wind of net neutrality, as envisioned by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. (What is "net neutrality?" Here's an explainer).

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FCC ready to scrutinize Comcast-GE consolidation deal

David Goetzl, MediaPost

Hours after Comcast and General Electric announced their intention to form a massive joint venture centered on content properties, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps issued a statement that was sharply skeptical of the deal.

"It will come as no news to them that they face a steep climb with me," he said as Comcast and GE pursue regulatory approval.

Copps said he continues to have concerns about "so few (media companies) controlling so much."

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Comcast-NBCU merger is bad for democracy

Marvin Ammori, Ammori.org

For weeks, newspapers have reported in their business pages on a possible Comcast-NBC Universal merger (announced today), as a business story.  The merger is more than a routine business story.  The merger signifies massive media consolidation.  This consolidation gives one company—Comcast—enormous control over the speech shaping Americans’ lives and shaping our democracy. The merger puts Comcast in control of MSNBC (a 24 hour news channel with an enormous impact on public opinion), CNBC (which impacts public opinion about Wall Street, now a hotly debated political question), NBC network (whose nightly news show averages eight million viewers, many times that of cable shows like those on Fox News), and 27 television stations (which generally have programs covering local news).

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How the FCC might stop the Comcast-NBC merger

Ars Technica

Teeth are gnashing and swords are being drawn in response to the news that Comcast is poised to snarf down 51 percent of NBC Universal—the other 49 percent owned by General Electric. The deal would give Comcast, already the nation's biggest cable company and ISP, control over a huge swath of video content.

"This is the most important media merger since Lucy married Desi," declared Andrew Schwartzman of the Media Access Project. "The merger clearly threatens to transform video markets nationwide. Although the details of the deal have not yet been announced, I am strongly concerned about the market power enjoyed by a Comcast/NBC combination. No one entity should have control over such a large audience."

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey