But the piece gives the actual story that matters—whether the deal is bad for consumers or not—short shrift, focusing instead on Comcast’s machinations to get it passed. It’s a perfectly legitimate angle, of course, to look at the corporate giant’s lobbying push, but readers ought to get better background on why they should care about it and how it will affect them. All we get on that front is Comcast flackery:

It says the merger is pro-competitive and in the public interest, promising fuller access to TV shows, movies and news. A recent full-page ad in The Washington Post featured a smiling young couple and the quote, “More ways to enjoy our TV, computer and even mobile devices? Sounds good to me.”

Sounds like BS to me! But is it? We’re not told. The anti-Comcast side doesn’t get to make a case here, other than to carp about Comcast’s heavy-handed lobbying push.

Again, it’s great to zoom in on the process-oriented stories—they definitely matter—but they ought to have some substance to beef them up.

How could it possibly be a good thing to let the country’s biggest cable company merge with one of its biggest content providers? What good could this possibly do to promote competition? What are Comcast’s lobbyists actually saying behind closed doors? More broadly, why has the Obama administration caved on its promises of vigorous antitrust enforcement?

That’s what I’d like to know.

It seems from the WaPo article above that based on its past stances, the Comcast/NBC deal is a fait accompli—maybe with a few tweaks. Here’s that good story:

Likewise, the antitrust division has shown itself more likely to use a scalpel than a blunt instrument when a merger has crossed its desk. When faced with mergers it worries will hurt competition, the Justice Department has forced companies to make some changes, such as spinning off a business line. But with one exception involving dairy processors, it has not gone to court to block deals, including the controversial marriage of Ticketmaster and Live Nation, the recent United-Continental airline merger and the union of the two biggest makers of voting machines in the nation.

So much for that tough line on antitrust.


Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.