Congressional Democrats on Feb. 4 challenged executives from Comcast Corp. and NBC Universal to show that the cable TV operator’s plan to take control of the entertainment company won’t hurt consumers and rivals, reports the Associated Press. In back-to-back hearings, members of House and Senate subcommittees expressed concern that the transaction could lead to such competitive harms as higher cable TV rates and fewer video programming choices. Comcast is seeking federal approval to acquire a 51-percent stake in NBC Universal from General Electric Co. The Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission are expected to sign off, but likely with conditions—and input from Congress could sway the outcome of those regulatory reviews. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts told lawmakers that the combination would produce “a more creative and innovative company that will meet consumer demands” and drive more innovation among competitors. But Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said he is worried about the dangers of allowing the nation’s largest cable and broadband provider to take control of NBC Universal’s vast media empire. “When the same company produces the programs and runs the pipes that bring us those programs, we have a reason to be nervous,” said Franken, a former comedian who spent nearly two decades as a writer and performer for NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”…

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staff and wire services reports