To Comcast-NBCU CEO’s: Consistency in Message to Regulators a Must

Expert Opinion, Transparency February 6th, 2010

, Expert Opinion,

Al Franken, Senator from Minnesota
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Recent hearings before the House on the proposed merger between Comcast and NBCU drew both accolades and skepticism for regulators on Feb 4, 2010. The skepticism seemed to come from what was perceived as inconsistencies in previous statements by CEO’s Roberts and Zucker from what was being purported in the public meeting.

Robert’s Inconsistencies

Specifically, Senator Al Franken, (D-Minn.) called out Comcast’s Roberts for being inconsistent in his statements to Franken privately, regarding program access rules, while Comcast lawyers were challenging these rules in Federal Court.

Zucker’s Inconsistencies

Congressman Rick Boucher (D-VA) questioned NBU’s Zucker who seemed to contradict himself on the question of Hulu, owned by NBCU, in blocking users of Boxee from downloading Hulu’s content to the TV. Zucker had two explanations of the incident which did not match; saying to legislators this month that Boxee was illegally taking Hulu’s content; and in a previous statement that Hulu management did not want content to become a TV viewing experience.

Providing a United and Consistent Message

At issue is credibility in addressing an audience of regulators who will determine the final outcome of the merger and then possibly provide stipulations that protect a market with competitive dynamics. The message has to be clear and consistent. These issues brought up on Feb 4, 2010 should have been vetted with external communication experts with both companies, see (Cable Industry Executive Quotes to Remember in 2009).

Rather than appearing to be caught off-guard, both CEO’s should have been ready to explain these inconsistencies with current and prior statements. While I have changed my views on issues from time-to-time with further research, it would be more plausible for these company leaders to admit making those statements and give reasons why their positions have changed.  In addition, consistency in both statements by CEO’s and actions by their companies should be merged into one message. See (Top Issues at Comcast-NBCU Hearings: Jobs, Competition, Broadcast TV and Online Video)

Going Forward

With the resources of Comcast and NBCU, it should not be difficult to adequately prepare for these hearings and to project a united front with a consistent message to regulators. It may seem awkward to revisit previous statements that do not align with your vision today, but from a credibility standpoint explaining the inconsistencies and reasons for a change of heart would be more productive in reaching company goals. My message to both Roberts, and Zucker would be that consistency in message and actions, frankness, and direct dialogue are the (keys to the kingdom).

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