Comcast Looks To Program Congress

With a slew of issues impacting the video marketplace expected to become an increasing point of emphasis in the next Congress, Comcast has been making contributions to federal candidates at a far higher rate than other media companies. The Comcast PAC has donated $1.51 million directly to House and Senate candidates, triple the amount of the next leading media company, Cox Enterprises.

Comcast contributions are also 88% higher than the PAC for the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and 69% above the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) -- the trade groups for the broadcast and cable industries, respectively. Cox is followed closely by Time Warner Cable before a large drop-off to DirecTV and others, including Viacom and Disney..

Cox, whose PAC has contributed $540,500, joins Comcast in owning a cable system and local TV stations, putting them in the position of having interests on both sides of the simmering retransmission consent debate.



The spending data for a TV/Music/Movies category in this election cycle comes from the Center for Responsive Politics and only goes through Sept. 3.

Legislation championed by some in both the House and Senate could alter the landscape that allows local stations to collect carriage payments from cable, satellite and telco TV operators, known as retransmission consent payments. Stalled negotiations between operators and station groups have led to some high-profile blackouts -- there's one right now in New York -- that have some legislators thinking the laws are outdated.

The cable operations at Comcast and Cox would prefer change that moderates their payments. At the same time, each company’s station groups enjoy the higher fees coming in from distributors and hope legislators focus on other things.

The donations from Comcast and Cox are presumably supplemented by the activity of the NAB and NCTA. The NAB, which supports stations, has donated $893,300. NCTA, with $803,500, backs cable systems.

(Of course, both Comcast and Cox are grappling with many more issues than restransmission consent from a la carte pricing to increasing broadband adoption. Comcast is likely to donate more than 2010, possibly because it has taken a controlling interest in NBCUniversal since then. )

Both Comcast and Cox have been careful not to demonstrate any obvious preference for Democrats or Republicans. Both have donated about the same for candidates in each party.

Both also have given significant amounts to Oregon Rep. Greg Walden (R), chairman of a House subcommittee that held a hearing this summer touching on the retrans issue.

Cox also gave $5,000 to South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint (R), who is not up for re-election. Yet, should the GOP take over the Senate, DeMint could become chairman of a committee that has oversight over communications matters and he has backed a bill that could upend the retransmision consent ecosystem. The NAB also tossed some money his way.

Following Comcast and Cox, the Time Warner Cable PAC donated the third-highest amount among media companies at $532,685. After that, comes DirecTV ($298,500), Clear Channel ($290,500), Viacom ($276,500) and Disney ($246,000).

Univision and CBS, which both have loads of local stations, donated only $100,000 and $80,000, respectively.

All media giants will grapple with issues in Washington over the next two years that could have a massive impact on revenues. More immediately, many will get their election investments back as candidates they support run ads on their stations and other properties.

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