The American legal eagle who oversaw the approval of Comcast’s takeover of NBC Universal has called on regulators to ‘carefully scrutinise’ the cable TV giant’s £22billion bid for Sky.
Gene Kimmelman – who was chief counsel for the Department of Justice’s competition division under President Obama – warned that Comcast, which has challenged 21st Century Fox’s bid to take control of Sky, would probably favour its own content and raise prices if it buys Sky.
‘The danger of this kind of discrimination and favouritism is it tends to raise prices and reduce the choices in terms of content available. Invariably the incentive is to overcharge and favour their own affiliated content and make sure consumers find it more difficult to go elsewhere and replace it,’ he told The Mail on Sunday.
Gene Kimmelman has called on regulators to ‘carefully scrutinise’ Comcast’s bid for Sky
‘From the US experiences, I would suggest it’s very important for competition authorities to carefully scrutinise this transaction to ensure that you don’t face discrimination and unfair preferencing of some content over others that consumers might prefer.’
He added that prices had steadily risen since his department approved Comcast’s 2011 takeover of NBC Universal.
Kimmelman, a lawyer who is now chief executive of Washington-based consumer rights group Public Knowledge, was known as Obama’s ‘secret weapon’ in competition cases, playing a key role in blocking AT&T’s $39billion bid for T-Mobile in 2011. After leaving that job, he opposed Comcast’s failed merger with Time Warner.
Culture Secretary Matt Hancock is preparing to rule on Fox’s bid to take full control of Sky. The Competition and Markets Authority delivered its report on the bid by Fox, which is controlled by the Murdoch family, last week.
Hancock has until June 13 to rule on the bid, which has been under review for 14 months. Sources said they expect a ruling soon.