FCC approves Comcast-NBCU deal

The FCC approved the Comcast-NBCU deal Jan. 18 permitting the assignment and transfer of broadcast, satellite and radio licenses from General Electric to Comcast.

With FCC approval, General Electric and Comcast are free to create a joint venture involving NBC Universal (NBCU) and Comcast. In approving the deal, the commission laid down specific conditions and made the merger contingent on commitments. Based “on a thorough review of the record,” the commission found the transaction to be in the public interest.

Among the conditions is a commitment to “foster competition in the video marketplace.” Comcast-NBCU also must commit to increasing local news coverage; expanding kids’ programming; enhancing programming to Spanish-speaking viewers; offering broadband to low-income households at reduced prices; and providing schools, libraries and underserved communities with high-speed broadband.

In announcing its approval of the transaction, the commission also spelled out several conditions and commitments that will remain in effect for seven years, including

  • ensuring reasonable access to Comcast-NBCU programming for multichannel distribution;
  • protecting the development of online competition;
  • access to Comcast’s distribution systems; and
  • protecting diversity, localism, broadcast and other public interest concerns.

In prepared comments released on the commission website accompanying notice of the approval, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski characterized the conditions as “carefully considered steps” aimed at ensuring competition drives innovation in the online video marketplace. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn affirmed the decision, and the two Republicans on the commission, Robert McDowell and Meredith Attwell Baker, concurred with the decision.

The lone commissioner dissenting with the decision to approve was Michael Copps. In a statement issued on the Internet, Copps said there are “many potential harms” in approving the transaction, and despite the efforts of the commission and the companies, it is not possible to “mask the truth that this Comcast-NBCU joint venture grievously fails the public interest.”