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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 12/23/2010

FCC chair to approve Comcast-NBC merger with conditions for program sharing

By Cecilia Kang

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission issued a draft order approving Comcast's proposed merger with NBC Universal on Thursday, putting the deal up for vote before the agency's other members.

Senior FCC officials said in a news conference that the merger presented five areas of concern but was ultimately deemed by staff and Chairman Julius Genachowski to tilt in the favor of public interest. Approval would come with several conditions related to Internet video distribution of NBC and Comcast content and the sharing of shows to competing cable and satellite firms. The merger would also have to ensure that competing networks get on Comcast's platform.

The Justice Department is conducting a separate review to see if the deal passes antitrust laws. The antitrust arm of Justice hasn't commented on the status of its review. A source familiar with the agency's thinking said Thursday that Justice officials have been working closely with FCC staff, but that the companies haven't fully committed yet to promises that would assuage concerns the deal could squash developing competition in the video space.

Given the size of the mergered company, Justice would want to ensure the company doesn't use its power to retaliate against programmers and partners who don't ascribe to their business demands. That was a condition Justice attached to Ticketmaster's merger with Live Nation.

The merger of the nation's biggest broadband Internet and cable service provider and a media giant with television, movie and broadcast station assets has elicited cricitism from public interest groups and competitors.

Senior officials wouldn't go into details but indicated that conditions for Internet video distribution were narrowly defined as the online TV market is new and evolving.

Competitors and public interest groups have expressed concern that Comcast, the nation's biggest broadband and cable company, could unfairly withhold NBC shows and movies from Internet video platforms such as Netflix and Apple TV. Critics have urged the FCC to ensure that Comcast not withhold that content from new platforms for consumers who may want to get all their video news and entertainment through the Internet. They point to Comcast's competing Internet video strategy, called Xfinity, as a threat to newcomers. Xfinity provides Internet versions of television shows and movies but only to consumers who subscribe to both Comcast cable and broadband Internet services.

The FCC has been working closely with the Justice Department on their parallel antitrust review.

The draft order now goes before the other four commissioners, who may suggest changes. Analysts expect the merger to be approved and that the federal review will be finalized in January.

By Cecilia Kang  | December 23, 2010; 11:30 AM ET
 
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Next: FCC releases its order on net neutrality

Comments

Good reporting, please keep it up

Posted by: getjiggly2 | December 23, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

What a joke. How this is in the public interest is beyond imagination.

Posted by: mtravali | December 23, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

At the same time the US Govt should make it easier for companies to get into the business.

Competition dies when mergers happen... when was the last time you saw a "gas price war?"

Competition is good for America, the US Govt needs to be reminded of that while they're getting donations from corporations where they're also lining up their future jobs in private sector.

Posted by: kkrimmer | December 23, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

You would have thought that the FCC would have learned something after their recent discussions on Net Neutrality. It's a major mistake to let the providers of Internet service also be involved with media creation -- it presents and inherent conflict of interest.

Expect to see Comcast/NBC take NBC's shows off Hulu as Comcast slowly tries to stop video delivery over the Internet (satellite and phone lines) instead of through their cable and cable stations.

Where's Obama, anyway?

Posted by: JamesCaroll | December 23, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Remember the regrets in allowing the banks to get so large they become "too big to fail"? Well now the FCC is doing the same thing. It's insane to allow this to go forward. Why have an FCC if they have been sold to big business? Shut it down and save taxpayers some money.

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | December 23, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Wonder how this will affect news programs,or will the bbc take over?

Posted by: jmounday | December 23, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Obviously, cable criminal comcast has agreed to keep the N(itwit)B(iased-socialist)C(lowns) propaganda network as a totally biased lamestream socialist fake-news operation that will spew forth nothing but lies, distortions, half-truths, socialist propaganda and baseless slime attacks against American patriots. N(itwit)B(iased-socialist)C(lowns) will remain the lowest-of-the-low, the slime-beneath-the-slime and the despicable crud at the bottom of the media barrel. I wouldn't be surprised if comcast now allows george soros to have final say over everything they broadcast.

Posted by: TeaPartyPatriot | December 23, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Another merger creating a corporation that will be too big to fail. Another giveaway to corporate America from the Obama Administration.

Posted by: farhorizons | December 23, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

I worry less about Comcast removing NBC shows from Hulu than about Comcast removing NBC shows from the airwaves.

Where are the safeguards for free-to-air broadcast television in FCC's oversight?

Posted by: mattintx | December 23, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I worry less about Comcast taking NBC shows off Hulu than about Comcast taking NBC shows off the airwaves.

Where are the safeguards for free-to-air broadcast television in FCC's oversight?

Posted by: mattintx | December 23, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

WHAT WERE THE FIVE AREA OF INTEREST? Did the FCC learn anything from the NFL AND COMCAST FIGHT?

Posted by: MILLER123 | December 23, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Sorry for the double-post, folks.

Posted by: mattintx | December 23, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

net-neutrality was to protect us from a monopoly problem that doesn't exist.

then, they start creating monopolies.

big govt cannot get anything right.

Posted by: docwhocuts | December 23, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

WHAT WERE THE FIVE AREAS OF INTEREST? Did the FCC learn anything from the NFL AND COMCAST FIGHT?

Posted by: MILLER123 | December 23, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

"...Justice would want to ensure the company doesn't use its power to retaliate against programmers and partners who don't ascribe to their business demands."

Ascribe is the wrong verb for that sentence, assuming the writer's intent was to describe giving in or caving in to...

Ascribe means to attribute some characteristic, etc. Does the Post still employ editors?

Posted by: group5 | December 23, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Ah, so this is the economic growth the Obama admistration was touting last week when he signed the tax cut extentions...Of course the growth they were talking about was corporations getting bigger, not creating more jobs....

Posted by: bromisky | December 23, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse


group5wrote:
Ascribe means to attribute some characteristic, etc. Does the Post still employ editors?
=======================================

Yes, they do, it's the spell and grammar checker application on the microsoft works...it works for a lot less money than a real person..

Posted by: bromisky | December 23, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Can someone tell me how much this decision cost Comcast and NBC? I might want to buy some government agency's ruling too. Do I give the money directly to Obama, or Julius or to the DNC or who do I actually pay? Will they take it out in trade as NBC clearly has got them to do?

Thanks for your help.

Posted by: JoeDBrown | December 23, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

NBC is getting rewarded for all the good work it does on MSNBC supporting the Administration. So much for limiting the special interst groups.

Posted by: cr8oncsu | December 23, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Bad idea. In this age of "too big to fail", stifled innovation and small business getting plowed by multinationals, we should be aggressively enforcing antitrust laws, not actively ignoring them.

Merging Comcast and NBC will not create jobs. If anything, it will cost jobs. Break up Comcast like Ma Bell and watch the hiring and innovation that results.

Posted by: BurgundyNGold | December 23, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Where are all of the liberals blasting the Administration for corporate favoritism? I wonder if Cheney had a hand in this what the comments would be? Come on nitwits, start foaming at the mouth about big corporations and their cozy relationships with Obama.

Posted by: JoeDBrown | December 23, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Wow this makes a lot of sense dude, I never thought about it like that before.

www.anon-web.edu.tc

Posted by: clermontpc | December 23, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Comcast has a long history of treating customers poorly. This will only reward them for their arrogant monopolistic behavior. Clearly the FCC is in Comcast's pocket. It is shameful.

Posted by: koygdb1 | December 23, 2010 8:26 PM | Report abuse

The sellout of America continues.

Posted by: b1978367 | December 23, 2010 10:00 PM | Report abuse

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