News Column

Protest planned for Comcast's shareholders meeting

May 20, 2014

By Bob Fernandez, The Philadelphia Inquirer



May 21--Several groups plan to protest the Comcast Corp. shareholders meeting Wednesday morning, saying that Comcast's deal to acquire Time Warner Cable Inc. would be bad for consumers.

About 100 people have indicated that they would participate in a demonstration outside the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts on the 300 block of South Broad Street, organizers said Tuesday.

The Comcast shareholders meeting is to begin at 9 a.m. in the Perelman Theater. Doors are to open at 8.

Consumers Union, Free Press, and Common Cause are among the organizations sending officials, said Hannah Sassaman, policy director for the Media Mobilizing Project in Philadelphia.

"This is about the people voting no on the merger," she said.

Sassaman expected the event to be civil: "No one is going to jail."

Comcast reached an agreement in February to acquire Time Warner Cable in a $45.2 billion all-stock transaction.

The deal would merge the nation's largest and second-largest cable-TV operators, with operations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and other major cities.

AT&T this week proposed purchasing DirecTV, the nation's largest satellite-TV operator, as the pay-TV industry consolidates.

Congressional hearings have been held in the Senate and the House weighing the impact of the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger. Opponents fear that the combining of the two companies would lead to anticompetitive market power. The Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission need to approve the deal.

The advocacy groups say they have collected by e-mail the names of 400,000 people who oppose the Comcast/Time Warner Cable deal. They will attempt to present the names to Comcast on a storage thumb drive, they say.

Michael McCauley, West Coast media director for Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of the organization that publishes Consumer Reports, said Tuesday that he had flown into Philadelphia from San Francisco to participate in the protest.

Comcast rejects the claim that the merger would be bad for consumers. The deal will bring faster Internet speeds to Time Warner Cable Internet subscribers, expand open-Internet protections, and broaden its program for discounted Internet service for poor families, Comcast spokesman John Demming said.

Comcast shareholders of record March 21 can vote at the meeting. Shareholders will vote on a directors slate and a proposal from the Episcopal Church for the cable company to disclose annually its lobbying activities. All shareholders can attend.

bfernandez@phillynews.com

215-854-5897 @bobfernandez1

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(c)2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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Source: Philadelphia Inquirer (PA)


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