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Posted: November 13, 2018
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Trump suggests Comcast-NBCUniversal may violate antitrust laws


President Donald Trump has turned his attention to another media issue: the potential for anti-competitive business practices by Comcast-NBCUniversal.

The president on Twitter Monday echoed the concerns of the American Cable Association, a trade group of more than 700 smaller video and internet providers, which asked the Justice Department in a letter last week to investigate whether "Comcast-NBC is acting anticompetitively."

Just as the DOJ has appealed AT&T's $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner for potential anticompetitive harms, so should the DOJ monitor investigate Comcast-NBCUniversal, the ACA argues.

"American Cable Association has big problems with Comcast," Trump tweeted Monday. "They say that Comcast routinely violates Antitrust Laws."

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He then added a quote attributed to Fox Business Network senior correspondent Charles Gasparino, who had written a story on the issue: "These guys are acting much worse, and have much more potential for damage to consumers, than anything AT&T-Time Warner would do."

Trump has repeatedly targeted the media, calling it the "true enemy of the people." Last week, the White House revoked CNN reporter Jim Acosta's press pass after Trump criticized him and other reporters in including NBC's Peter Alexander and American Urban Radio Networks correspondent April Ryan.

Comcast, when it acquired a 51 percent stake in NBCUniversal in 2011, agreed to agreed to the DOJ's seven-year set of conditions that precluded anti-competitive actions and protected open internet provisions. That settlement expired in September. In 2013, Comcast paid $16.7 billion to acquire the remainder of General Electric’s stake in the joint venture.

Comcast declined comment on Trump's tweet, but did release a statement addressing the ACA letter: "At Comcast NBCUniversal, we are competing in this dynamic environment the way we always have – by continuing to innovate and conducting our business in compliance with antitrust laws and other legal requirements. ... We believe that ACA’s letter is without merit and constitutes an inappropriate attempt to gain leverage in the commercial marketplace."

Back in August, the DOJ's antitrust division wrote a letter to Comcast telling the media company it would continue monitoring its TV programming and distribution practices, Bloomberg reported.

The ACA, in its letter dated Nov. 6, said it was "heartened" by the DOJ's action. "Comcast-NBCU’s ability to raise programming prices in local markets is unmatched by any similar problem created by the AT&T-TW combination," the ACA wrote. "Unlike Time Warner, Comcast-NBCU owns significant must-have local programming, including 11 NBC local television stations and seven NBC Regional Sports Networks, and unlike AT&T, Comcast is the dominant multichannel video programming distributor in many of these local markets with market shares above 60 percent."

Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.

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