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FCC Approves Comcast-NBC Deal; Strings Attached

Jan 18, 2011  •  Post A Comment

The Federal Communications Commission has approved Comcast’s merger with NBC Universal, according to a number of media reports. The FCC voted 4-1 for approval, the reports say.

According to the report in B&C, John Eggerton writes, "The deal, which FCC officials have stressed was a joint venture rather than a merger, combines the nation’s largest cable operator with a studio library and cable channel content. It creates a company majority owned by Comcast (51%) that pools all of NBCU’s media content with most of Comcast’s, with Comcast retaining full control of its cable and Internet assets. Comcast has the option of buying out NBCU parent GE’s 49% interest in the joint venture over the next three to seven years."

Regarding some of the conditions that came with the approval, Eggerton adds, "An FCC source says Comcast also late Monday filed in the merger review docket officially agreeing to commit to the network neutrality conditions voluntarily even if the FCC’s network neutrality rules approved Dec. 21, are eventually thrown out by the courts.It was being described as an enforceable voluntary commitment, rather than a condition, which might be an effort to appease commission Republicans."

Regarding any other strings that come with the deal, Eggerton writes, "The deal comes with plenty of those conditions, including on access to broadcast, cable, and online content, and network neutrality conditions." However Eggerton did not detail any of those conditions.

The Washington Post, in its account, wrote, "Conditions for the merger are expected to be announced later today. The stipulations include Comcast’s promise to share content at fair prices with competitors, to allow small cable providers to see arbitration in program access disagreement, and allow other networks to get similar treatment as NBC shows so as not to give preference to some content over others."

The lone dissenting voice on the FCC was Commissioner Michael Copps.

According to the Post, Copps "said the concentration of media under Comcast’s control would put too much power into one company that controls the access consumers have to entertainment and news. He said in the end that the venture would have too many potential conflicts.The deal ‘reaches into virtually every corner of our media and digital landscapes and will affect every citizen in the land,’ Copps said in a statement. ‘All the majority’s efforts—diligent though they were—to ameliorate these harms cannot mask the truth that this Comcast-NBCU joint venture grievously fails the public interest.’ "

The various articles said that the Justice department was expected to approve the deal as well.

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