updated 2/4/2010 3:54:32 PM ET 2010-02-04T20:54:32

House Democrats have challenged executives from Comcast Corp. and NBC Universal to show the cable TV operator's plan to take control of the NBC media empire won't hurt consumers and rivals.

In a hearing, members of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee expressed concerns the transaction could lead to a range of competitive harms, including higher cable TV rates and fewer video programming choices.

Rep. Edward Markey, a senior member of the subcommittee on communications and technology, said the issue boiled down to seven 'C's: "Will this combination of communications colossi curtail competition and cost consumers?"

(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

Markey and other House Democrats raised concerns at the first of two congressional hearings. The Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust and competition policy takes up the issue later Thursday.

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