FCC Chairman Genachowski OKs NBC-Comcast Merger ... On Conditions
December 24, 2010 at 7:26 AM (PT)
FCC Chairman JULIUS GENACHOWSKI has issued a draft order that offers conditional approval for the proposed merger of COMCAST and NBC. According to the WASHINGTON POST, His draft offer has just been distributed to the other four members of the FCC for consideration; a full vote on the proposal is expected to take place next month.
The main condition GENACHOWSKI cited was that the two parties "promise to share TV shows not only with competing cable and telecom services but also, to some extent, with new Web platforms, such as APPLE TV and NETFLIX, that want to offer television over the Internet.
The JUSTICE DEPARTMENT, which has been conducting a separate antitrust review of the deal, has not indicated its position. A source told the POST that the companies have not satisfied concerns about how the deal might affect competition, particularly in the evolving industry of Internet TV.
Other observers believe the two companies will most likely go along with any such recommendations in renders to get the merger approved. Presently, the two entities have a total 16.7 million broadband subscribers, about 23 million cable customers and a vast library of popular shows, including "Saturday Night Live" and "The Office."
Comcast has publicly said that it would have no problem with adhering to those conditions, because withholding shows from competitors or blocking rival programs from getting to its customers would be bad for business. The company has already greed to a number of conditions to appease regulators, saying it would operate fairly as both the owner of television content and a distributor of those shows.
Nevertheless, more than a few consumer interest groups are concerned, as well as competing cable and broadcast companies, online television distributors, and some lawmakers, who believe the merged company might wield too much influence over the fast-evolving Internet and media industries.
"It's hard to imagine how a cable giant like COMCAST owning a content empire like NBC UNIVERSAL could be a plus for consumers' pocketbooks and competition," said PARUL DESAI of CONSUMERS UNION. "Since the FCC is likely to approve the deal, it must take seriously obligations to protect the public interest and adopt strict and enforceable conditions."