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Posted at 6:25 PM ET, 01/17/2011

Comcast-NBC joint venture approval expected Tuesday

By Cecilia Kang

Federal regulators are expected to vote Tuesday to approve Comcast and NBC Universal's joint venture, putting an end to a more than year-long review of a controversial union that will combine the nation's biggest broadband Internet and cable service operator with a television and movie powerhouse.

According to sources familiar with the thinking of the Federal Communications Commission, the deal is set to be approved in a four-to-one vote, with Democratic Commissioner Michael J. Copps dissenting. The senior member of the FCC has consistently expressed concern that the joint venture would harm the public interest as too much control of content goes into the hands of a company that also controls how consumer access the Internet and television.

The Justice Department approved the deal in its antitrust review, and is expected to announce conditions it attached to the merger soon after the FCC's vote, according to one source familiar with the federal reviews. Sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal has not been officially approved.

Together, the companies have 16.7 million broadband subscribers, about 23 million cable customers and a vast library of popular shows, including "Saturday Night Live" and "The Office."

The merger has sparked a flurry of lobbying at the FCC and Justice Department, with cable firms, television networks and station owners, and Internet video distributors expressing concern that the combined firm could unfairly prioritize their own business lines and quash competition.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski threw his support behind the deal in late December with a number of conditions. Among them, senior FCC staff said the joint venture would have to commit to assurances that it wouldn't stifle competition in the fast-evolving online video market.

To that end, sources said the company may also be required to share NBC content with Internet companies, such as YouTube and Roku, if other networks, such as CBS and Walt Disney, are doing so.

Justice is expected to impose conditions that prohibit "anti-retaliatory" moves by the joint venture against competitors and partners. As Justice did in the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation, the new company couldn't retaliate against any venue owner that chooses to use another company's ticketing services or promotional services.

In the Comcast-NBC deal, analysts said that would mean the new company could not punish business partners who do business with Comcast's or NBC's competitors.

And the companies are expected to voluntarily agree to abide by net neutrality rules for seven years. The promise would ensure the venture treat content equally on Comcast's networks even if the FCC's separate Internet access regulations are overturned by courts.

Related:
Planned Comcast-NBC merger ignites TV access battle

By Cecilia Kang  | January 17, 2011; 6:25 PM ET
Categories:  Antitrust, Comcast, DOJ, FCC, Internet TV, Media, Net Neutrality, Online Video  
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Next: The Circuit: Apple earnings call; FCC may approve NBC-U, Comcast merger today; Goldman bars U.S. investors on Facebook deal

Comments

How long before Olbermann and Maddow are out of a job?

Posted by: prez2 | January 17, 2011 8:15 PM | Report abuse

This is a really, really bad idea. Comcast has proven themselves time and again to be the most corrupt and anti-customer company in the country. So sad that the FCC is even considering this. What has happened to free market competition and honor in this nation?

Posted by: B2O2 | January 17, 2011 9:44 PM | Report abuse

Can't wait to read the book about how this merger was foisted on the American public and how much money was spent in so doing. Somehow the FCC seems to have confused shareholder value as being synonymous with the public interest.

The only silver lining: this may lower health care costs, as consumers, who are getting fleeced for 200 bucks/month for "triple play," opt-out and explore life away from the confines of the couch.

Posted by: bikes-everywhere | January 18, 2011 12:22 AM | Report abuse

two losers do not make a winner!

Posted by: astroman215aolcom | January 18, 2011 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Jeez, I saw that headline and was going to post that exactly!!

How long before Olbermann and Maddow are out of a job?

NICE!!

Posted by: mjandrews8 | January 18, 2011 8:47 AM | Report abuse

The government can't create jobs but they can allow the creation of supercompanies that will likely shed jobs due to redundancy while squashing smaller competition?

When are these clowns going to get it through their thick skulls that massive, exploitionist companies stifle competition and job growth. Breaking them up creates competition and jobs. So says Ma Bell.

Posted by: BurgundyNGold | January 18, 2011 9:13 AM | Report abuse

What prevents Comcast from taking NBC off the air in order to push viewers to its cable systems?

Posted by: mattintx | January 18, 2011 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Will this mean any changes for their Spread the Hatred Channel, MSNBC, especially after the Tuscon shootings?

Posted by: llrllr | January 18, 2011 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Let the layoffs begin. The FCC never saw a merger it didn't like.

Posted by: jckdoors | January 18, 2011 10:35 AM | Report abuse

How about the Comcast owned leadership at FCC grow a pair and go after the terrible consumer record of Comcast prior to allowing them to control more of the services to American households? These Comcast people are like dealing with bad flea market vendors. Google/Yahoo 'Comcast complaints'. I tried to file a complaint with FCC and the FCC made it such a task I gave up and contacted my state agency. And Comcast has insulated it's 'supervisors' to the point that it is a problem to contact anyone but the lowest tier phone operator to solve a problem above the level of a telephone monkey!

Posted by: gunnysgt77 | January 18, 2011 12:10 PM | Report abuse


I did a search and the Roberts Family who own Comcast were big Bush/Cheney donors.

So I think they are conservatives.

How long before MSNBC gets a turnover of pundits?

They're local sports coverage on cable outlets is superb.

I know cable customers complain about their customer service but that shouldn't make a difference to TV viewers who use other providers.

I read that Jeff Imelt, CEO of GE who owned NBC is pro-Obama because of deals in the "green" economy from which they benefitted.

It's going to be interesting to see if there will be a "sea change" at NBC/MSNBC.

Posted by: janet8 | January 18, 2011 1:52 PM | Report abuse

The only condition that would make this deal palatable would be that comcast must divest all and any part of its business that lays cables, builds or maintains infrastructure, equipment, or any part of the architecture of the internet from any other part that sells any kind of service or content whatsoever.

I'd also like to see the equipment part separated from the cable laying part.

This way there could be real competition at every level.

The problem here is once we have such a huge vertically integrated monopoly, every single aspect of the internet, cable, phone becomes stifled completely.

It is a truly disappointing day that the president (who lied when he said he would stand behind nobody on the issue of net neutrality) is giving away the farm to comcast what it has been totally within his power to stop them.

Posted by: dkliman | January 18, 2011 3:26 PM | Report abuse

In the year 2000 FCC unconstitutionally removed all the PBS stations from the access law. The 'as-applied' challenge to FCC jurisdiction over the First Amendment right to access is nearly ready for the federal court. In the 2008 election, the independent candidate for president applied to all of the networks for access. They all ignored his requests except for NBC which sent the unknown candidate a letter mocking his political campaign and his rights.

The access law is very clear: For the willful and repeated failure to allow access, the Commission may REVOKE a network's license. The court is empowered to order the Commission to do just that. The ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE is part of the petition.

The bottom line: Comcast will be getting an empty shell with the license of NBC and all of their licenses up for public auction, netting our government billions. Are we afraid of speech? The petition,nearly finished, is beyond 300 pages without a wasted or repetitious paragraph.

A smart move on Comcast part is to start dragging their feet because they will have the opportunity to bid on the whole ball of wax at public auction.

Michael Stephen Levinson is the black listed poet behind the petition. He brings to the political table a Vehicle for World Peace, that in the form of a Television Scripture he plans to perform, from dusk until dawn, like old blind Homer, with every line a delicate sensible rhyme, for all the worlds' peoples to participate in together all at once, beginning with Adman and Even in the Gar Den ov Edum.

NBC and the others willfully ignore the Supreme Court precepts that it is the right of the viewers and listeners, not the right of the broadcasters that is paramount. We shall see what happens with michaelslevinson, the "jacklegs jumping up."

Are we afraid to allow the poet author of prophetic works to tell his vision? A note to the readers: run the words "jacklegs jumping up" in The New York Times archive. See what you get.

Posted by: michaelslevinson | January 18, 2011 3:33 PM | Report abuse

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