Nov. 13 (UPI) -- Comcast's broad ownership of NBC and several cable channels and regional sports networks raises antitrust concerns, a cable industry trade group said.
The American Cable Association sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice calling for an investigation into the media giant's business practices. Comcast owns NBCUniversal.
"By opening a formal investigation, the DOJ, which has already put Comcast-NBCU on notice, can take the next step to further gather facts about the company's activities and ensure consumers and competition are protected," ACA President and CEO Matthew Polka said. "Given the enormity of Comcast-NBCU's market presence and incentive to engage in anti-competitive harm, such an investigation is fully warranted."
In 2011, the DOJ and Federal Communications Commission put restrictions on Comcast as a condition of its acquisition of NBCUniversal. That seven-year oversight ended earlier this year.
"Now, with Comcast-NBCU 'unleashed,' the firm can act with impunity harming consumers and rivals," the ACA said. The association is a cable trade organization that represents 700 smaller and medium-sized broadband, phone and video service companies.
The ACA said there have been reports from its members that Comcast may restrict the ability of consumers to access Hulu, or may already be doing that.
"This is especially troubling because their customers increasingly prefer over-the-top options to traditional video services," the ACA said.
The DOJ restrictions required NBCUniversal to be a silent partner at Hulu.
Comcast released a statement saying consumers have more competitive options now.
"We believe that ACA's letter is without merit and constitutes an inappropriate attempt to gain leverage in the commercial marketplace," Comcast said in a statement.
On Monday, President Donald Trump tweeted comments about Comcast made by Fox News contributor Charlie Gasparino.
"These guys are acting much worse, and have much more potential for damage to consumers, than anything AT&T-Time Warner could do," Trump tweeted, quoting Gasparino.
Trump has been a critic of NBC's news coverage and some view his antitrust crusade as a veiled attempt to retaliate against the media companies that he disagrees with.
When the Democratic majority takes over the House of Representatives in January, they plan to investigate whether Trump tried to punish the Washington Post and CNN with "instruments of state power," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told Axios. Schiff is expected to be the House intelligence committee chairman next year.
Comcast owns 11 local television stations and is the dominant video programming distributor with 60 percent market share in many markets. Last year, Comcast acquired the NBC station in Boston.
The DOJ said it would keep an eye on Comcast after the restrictions ended.