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FCC Chair Endorses Comcast-NBC/Universal Deal

27 Dec, 2010 By: Chris Tribbey

Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, gave conditional approval to Comcast’s $30 billion merger with NBC/Universal Dec. 23, issuing a draft order to fellow commissioners for their consideration.

The FCC could vote on the merger as early as January.

The order itself was not released publicly. However, several news outlets reported the conditions would require the new company to make its own content available to other cable and satellite service providers and that it didn’t prioritize its own content over that of rival companies, a key condition in the net neutrality rules passed by the commission Dec. 21.

David L. Cohen, EVP of public policy for Comcast, welcomed the news.

“After nearly a year, with one of the longest public comment periods in transaction review history, the filing of thousands of substantive comments, and the production of over 500,000 pages of documents by Comcast, we look forward to an expeditious vote in January by the full Commission approving the transaction,” he said.

Cohen said the merger “is pro-competitive, pro-consumer, and will deliver real public interest benefits.”

“We made a number of significant commitments on day one designed to assure the government and the public that the public interest would be served and these benefits realized,” he said. “And we have continued to refine and enhance our commitments throughout the year-long review by the FCC and the [Department of Justice].”

Corie Wright, policy counsel for open media nonprofit Free Press, said the conditions won’t go far enough and begged the FCC not to “rubber-stamp” the deal.

“It is not sufficient for the FCC’s conditions to merely preserve the status quo,” she said. “Under the merger review standard of the Communications Act, the FCC may only approve a merger that affirmatively promotes the public interest goals of localism, diversity and competition. The devil will be in the details, but we remain skeptical as to whether the proposed conditions would go far enough to fulfill this public interest requirement.

“If this merger is approved, it will profoundly transform our media system. Comcast-NBC will control one in five television viewing hours, and it will have a stake in 125 cable channels, film studios, websites and other properties,” Wright added. “Consumers are the ones who will be paying the price through higher bills and fewer choices, and they deserve a full and thorough review of the impact of this merger. We don’t need another massive giveaway to big media that leaves consumers high and dry.”

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