Comcast Merger Faces Farmers’ Rebellion

Comcast Today: RFD-TV mounts grass-roots campaign against urbanized TV.


While Comcast has plenty of muscle in Washington D.C., there has been no shortage of suspects who might derail its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable: Al Franken, conservatives, other digital media companies, net neutrality activists, or anybody who has dealt with the company’s legendarily bad customer service.

But … farmers?

Yup. Farmers.

The Federal Communications Commission is in the middle of a public comment period regarding the proposed merger: The agency has received 24,600 filings overall, as of this morning, and 7,124 in the last 30 days. Philly Mag took a look at one day’s worth of filings — from Monday, August 4th — and, as happened the previous time we undertook the exercise, there were no pro-merger comments to be found. That’s no surprise: It’s hard for the general public to get excited about mergers, but plenty easy for them to get angry.

What was surprising? There were 120 public comments filed on Monday: The vast majority of them were from fans of Omaha-based RFD-TV, a rural-oriented cable television network that features programming like “The Angus Report” and “Corn College TV.” Those fans fear that they’ll lose their favorite station to decisions by East Coast television programmers.

The channel has been running a grass-roots — natch — campaign against the Comcast merger as a result. RFD-TV founder Patrick Gottsch wasn’t available this morning to chat with Philly Mag, but RFD’s chief operating officer, Steve Campione, made clear in a May press release that rural folks see the Comcast merger as dangerous to their way of life.

“What we’re against and what we are concerned with is what I would call a complete urbanization of a cable lineup that we see happening through, with Comcast, and how that’s going to extend now to the Time Warner subscribers,” he said. “There is a real danger that there is a wall going to be built between our rural programing and urban centers that really don’t have any other outlet to receive this. And it’s very important information. Everybody eats. Everybody needs to know where their food comes from.”

It’s a message that clearly resonates with RFD fans, who are blitzing the FCC with statements in favor of the channel and against the Comcast merger.

“I would hope that RFD-TV stays on the TV because it has excellent programming and shows our way of life from the city and helps folks in the city to see where their food comes from and not just at the grocery store,” said one commenter. “I as a rodeo cowboy love their programming because it shows the way we were brought up to have respect for others and live this rural life we live.”

Added another:  “I just want folks to know that everyone in my family watch RFD-TV we love the program and I just hate it when big companies come in and try to take over the TV programs along with the Internet … There’s nothing wrong with RFD-TV: It’s about music, a way of life that most of us to relate to. City folks what do you all know, just greed, less compassion for others, how sad. Someday I want all of you greedy people to take a walk in the woods and breathe that fresh air and look around you before you take something that isn’t yours to remove.  …. RFD TV is good for the soul.”

There are dozens more comments just like those, just from Monday.

The FCC will take public comment until August 25th. We’ll try to get more comment from RFD and Comcast on this issue in coming days.

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