FCC approves Comcast-NBC deal, with conditions; DOJ approval expected

FCC approves Comcast-NBC deal, with conditions; DOJ approval expected

Summary: As expected, the FCC today approved a merger between Comcast and NBC Universal - with conditions. Approval of the deal by the other government agency reviewing it - the Justice Department - also is expected today, with conditions.

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As expected, the FCC today approved a merger between Comcast and NBC Universal - with conditions. Approval of the deal by the other government agency reviewing it - the Justice Department - also is expected today, with conditions.

The FCC voted 4-1 in favor of the deal, with commissioner Michael Copps, a Democrat, opposed. Copps, in a statement, expressed concerns that the merger puts too much power in the hands of a single company and warned that a joint venture between the network and the cable TV operators "opens the door to the cable-ization of the open Internet. The potential for walled gardens, toll booths, content prioritization, access fees to reach end users, and a stake in the heart of independent content production is now very real.”

To protect the development of online competition, the commission is requiring that the joint company, among other things:

  • will offer its video programming to legitimate online video distributors on the same terms and conditions that would be available to a multichannel video programming distributor.
  • will offer standalone broadband Internet access at a reasonable price and of sufficient bandwidth to allow customers to access online video services without being required to purchase a cable TV subscription
  • will not enter into agreements to unreasonably restrict online distribution of its own video programming or programming of other providers.
  • will not disadvantage rival online video distribution through its broadband Internet access services and/or set-top boxes.
  • will not exercise corporate control over or unreasonably withhold programming from Hulu.
  • will make available to about 2.5 million low income households: (i) high-speed Internet access service for less than $10 per month; (ii) personal computers, netbooks, or other computer equipment at a purchase price below $150; and (iii) an array of digital literacy education opportunities.
  • will expand its existing broadband networks to reach approximately 400,000 additional homes, provide broadband Internet access service in six additional rural communities, and provide free video and high-speed Internet service to 600 new anchor institutions, such as schools and libraries, in underserved, low-income areas.
  • will maintain at least the current level of news and information programming on NBC’s and Telemundo’s owned-and-operated (“O&O”) broadcast stations, and in some cases expand news and other local content.
  • will increase the availability of children’s programming on its NBC and Telemundo broadcast stations, and add at least 1,500 more choices to Comcast’s on-demand offerings for children.  It will also provide additional on-screen ratings information for original entertainment programming on the Comcast-NBCU broadcast and cable television channels and improved parental controls, as well as restrict interactive advertising aimed at children 12 years old and younger and provide public service announcements addressing children’s issues.
  • will increase programming diversity by expanding its over-the-air programming to the Spanish language-speaking community, and by making NBCU’s Spanish-language broadcast programming available via Comcast’s on demand and online platforms.

In his lengthy statement, Commissioner Copps expressed additional concerns about the future of public broadcast stations, as well as the commitment to quality journalism in the news divisions. He wrote:

As for the future of America’s news and journalism, I see nothing in this deal to address the fundamental damage that has been inflicted by years of outrageous consolidation and newsroom cuts.  Investigative journalism is not even a shell of its former self.  All of this means it’s more difficult for citizens to hold the powerful accountable... Given that this merger will make the joint venture a steward of the public’s airwaves as a broadcast licensee, I asked for a major commitment of its resources to beef up the news operation at NBC.  That request was not taken seriously.  Increasing the quantity of news by adding hours of programming is no substitute for improving the quality of news by devoting the necessary resources.  Make no mistake: what is at stake here is the infrastructure for our national conversation—the very lifeblood of American democracy.  We should be moving in precisely the opposite direction of what this Commission approves today

In a post last year, Larry Dignan highlighted some of the Internet-related significance of the deal, looking at the two companies as online content provider and broadband pipeline. In that post, he noted that there are a number of Internet-related assets that could stem from the approval of this deal. They include:

  • Comcast has the broadband network (distribution).
  • Comcast-NBC would have several of the top properties regularly ranked in comScore’s top 50.
  • Comcast would have a stake in Hulu via NBCU.
  • Comcast would have a large women’s network (iVillage via NBCU).
  • Comcast would continue with its TV Everywhere initiative.

The deal, which has been under review for more than a year, was given a preliminary thumbs-up by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski just before Christmas. In a statement today, Genachowski said the approval by the FCC is structured to "spur broadband adoption among underserved communities; to increase broadband access to schools and libraries; and to increase news coverage, children's television, and Spanish-language programming."

Topics: Government US, Broadband, Government, Networking, Software Development

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20 comments
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  • Be still my "corazon"! (heart)

    More channels of the same drivel (at a higher price).
    :-(
    kd5auq
  • Sinking the Internet One Monopoly at a Time...

    As a former Comcast customer, I think this deal should have been stopped by the FCC. High prices for crappy services is what Comcast is known for. Guess this is the start of the steep monetization of the internet by the big boys. If the DOJ allows this to go through, it will open the door for the end of the internet as we know it. For any of you old enough to remember the sales pitch when cable TV was first offered, it stated that you would have programming without commercials...you were paying a premium so they didn't need to collect revenue from advertisers. Anyone watch cable TV lately? Not only are the channels filled with commercials, but they are all synchronized to have them on nearly every channel at the same time. The DVR was supposed to help with that, but the big corporations killed the features that let you automatically skip the commercials. What are we going to have now, "Please wait while your 30-second advertisement is downloaded" messages before you can see the content on the web page that you are interested in? Oh, they already have that, but look for it to get much worse. Please wait for a 30 second ad before you get to your google page to enter a search phrase? Don't think that is realistic...just wait and see.
    bear_it999@...
    • all with the us govt seal of approval

      @bear_it999@... Thank goodness our fine leaders are doing so much to protect us.
      otaddy
      • Yes, but...

        @otaddy

        ... how do we stop them from "helping" us? I really want to know.
        SAStarling
    • RE: FCC approves Comcast-NBC deal, with conditions; DOJ approval expected

      @bear_it999@...

      You have "hit it on the head".

      This deal is a perfect example of <b><i>The Best Government Money Can Buy!!!!</i></b>
      fatman65535
  • What could possibly go wrong?

    This is really going to work out great for us Comcast customers...
    crazydanr@...
    • WHAT could possibly go wrong?

      Are you sh!tting us?
      ahh so
  • Do you also need someone to feed and bathe you?

    @bear_it999@...

    I am so sick of hearing all the complaints about Comcast. For those of you who are out there moaning and complaining about it, there are legions of others who are quite happy with their services. I am part of that legion. I've never had ONE instance where I had problems where Comcast couldn't help me right away. And they're one of the only providers whose customer support is not in Asia (yet).

    Secondly, you must not know anybody in the broadcast industry. The commercials are "synchronized," as you believe, because most shows have segmented blocks of content: A block, B block, C block, etc. There are ususally limits to how long segments (blocks) can be without a commercial, so they're always the same. Even in radio; most shows break at around 21 mins after the hour, then again in 10 minutes, and again in 10 minutes. Those are not the exact intervals, but they are broadcast standards.

    And you whine and complain about the commercials, not wanting to have to see them all. What? Are you that damn lazy you think someone is violating your civil rights because you have to *gasp* fast-forward through the commercials? Just how do you think the stations are funded, either? Unless they're PBS, C-SPAN or other such entities, they are ONLY funded by ad buys from companies.

    I also wonder when it became so that the Department of Justice had any say-so over what private companies can do? That is so assinine it is beyond belife.

    Good grief, bear...man up and take care of YOURSELF. If you don't like Comcast, switch. If nothing else if offered in your area, then move. But then again, I don't know of anywhere in the U.S. where you cannot get Dish or DirecTV.

    Yes, let's just make sure we have great leaders in Washington who can also wipe our a$$es for us, too.

    /rant
    SAStarling
    • RE: FCC approves Comcast-NBC deal, with conditions; DOJ approval expected

      @SAStarling
      "But then again, I don't know of anywhere in the U.S. where you cannot get Dish or DirecTV. "
      And they provide the channels that Comcast has now just purchased. So what happens, when Comcast wants more money from them for airing these channels? Even after they've made money selling ad time?
      The naivete of some people astounds me.
      reziol
    • RE: FCC approves Comcast-NBC deal, with conditions; DOJ approval expected

      @SAStarling Where does the money go from having to pay a bill for the service? There is no way it all goes into broadcasting costs.

      I agree, People need to quit complaining and actually do something like switching providers. Leaving a service because it does something a person doesn't like, is the most efficient way to show you can not live with the limitations or ideas of the service. Because if you just complain but continue to pay regardless, you haven't accomplished anything.

      And the best way to avoid commercials; not owning a cable TV or satellite subscription and just waiting for the DVD release.
      pyrofox.insane@...
      • Are you dense or what?

        [i]I agree, People need to quit complaining and actually do something like switching providers. Leaving a service because it does something a person doesn't like, is the most efficient way to show you can not live with the limitations or ideas of the service.[/i]

        @pyrofox.insane@...

        Read my lips...

        THERE IS NO OTHER ISP IN OUR AREA. ONLY ONE: COMCAST.

        NO SATELLITE, NO DSL. SO THERE IS [B]NO OTHER OPTION[/B] TO SWITCH.

        Get the picture? Or is it too difficult a situation for you to grasp?
        ahh so
    • RE: FCC approves Comcast-NBC deal, with conditions; DOJ approval expected

      @SAStarling: "I also wonder when it became so that the Department of Justice had any say-so over what private companies can do?"<br><br>That would be the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890 (15 U.S.C.A. sect 1 et seq.), the Clayton Act of 1914 (15 U.S.C.A. sect 12 et seq.), the Robinson-Patman Act of 1936 (15 U.S.C.A. sect 13 et seq.), and the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914 (15 U.S.C.A. sect 41--58). Enforcement of antitrust law depends on the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division.<br><br>So, in short, 120 years ago, that's when.
      Cyraxote
    • RE: FCC approves Comcast-NBC deal, with conditions; DOJ approval expected

      @SAStarling <i>"I also wonder when it became so that the Department of Justice had any say-so over what private companies can do? That is so asinine it is beyond belief."</i><br><br>Careful your ignorance is showing. I guess history wasn't you strong suite. Allow me to give you a brief history of why the DOJ has to approve mergers of large corporations. It started back in the late 1800's, when corporation started to create large monopolies, and used many different ways to snuff out the competition, hence the antitrust movement. The Sherman and Clayton Acts were enabled to stop these monopolistic methods, and to allow for free trade. So with Comcast and NBC, the DOJ has to evaluate if the merger will create a monopoly and therefore violates the Sherman and Clayton Acts. Think of it this way, if a person owns all of one type of commodity, they can charge a outrageous price for it, because there are no one else that can provide said commodity. With that said company has no fear of anyone competing (eg a competitor undercutting another to "steal" business from the 800lb gorilla.) All around it's bad for the economy, and bad for the little people, which would be us the general consumer. <br><br>I hope your day has been enlighten from this social studies lesson.
      mgaul
  • Comcast

    I use an antenna. No cable/satellite/u-verse...all is available, but not subscribed to, sure we miss a program or two worth watching--call the kids to record--both have cable TV. Or use the internet. don't have Comcast in our area. Cox is the supplier of cable TV.
    dhays
  • I'm a happy Comcast subscriber, BUT ...

    ... I think that this is another step in the demise of broadcast TV. This deal (along with a number of others approved over the last twenty years) further reduces the number choices available to consumers - especially low-income consumers.

    The list of "conditions" placed on Comcast - NBCU sounds pretty significant until you stop and look at the numbers. These "conditions" are cosmetic and place far too few specific conditions on Comcast - NBCU. What conditions are there remain vague and subjective.

    Except in major metropolitan areas, OTA reception is negligible without cable-TV and, cable companies have pretty much decided that they need $60 per household to bother with you. Sure, they offer a BASIC CABLE option for $20 but this doesn't cover the cost of equipment and, if you want to take advantage of that brand new HDTV you just bought, you are limited to a small number of OTA channels - unless you are willing to rent (you cannot purchase) that extra equipment.
    M Wagner
  • Just cut the cable!

    This is why every city need free Wifi. I can actually see a time that my home will be free of cable and internet. I will just use some sort of smart device at McDonald's.
    vince7@...
  • First healthcare now computers must be sold by a internet company!

    "personal computers, netbooks, or other computer equipment at a purchase price below $150" Not only cheap fee's but now getting into sale of computer equipment! Their a internet company not a computer retailer. A notebook for less than $150, get real.
    rascalrat
  • Gangsters of Broadcast

    This is why i have no concern when cabel and network cry about theft of there companies content.

    You can't help some people (I am so sick of hearing all the complaints about Comcast).
    There is always one! Legion he says,NUT I say!

    A lot of people saw this coming. I'm one of them, Comcast are gangsters.
    They have been for years giving shabby service.
    Wherever they were aloud.
    Enough that they can now buy a major broadcasting company.
    Commissioner Cropp seems to be the only one on his board that has some Ethics. Heck Stevie Wonder could see this deal being big problem in the future.
    The other DOJ needs to investigate.
    If not maybe somebody should investigate DOJ.
    SHAMKEN@...
  • I definatly will not ever watch anything on NBC if this deal goes through.

    Comcast is on a high horse and needs to be knocked off.
    dougogd@...
  • Comcast Should Be Punished-Not Approved!

    Comcast's history of antitrust violations and plain old evil practices, should cause the gov't to punish them. I just cancelled them after several years of poor service. Every day my Comcast internet would go out, several times! After numerous calls and nothing being repaired, I finally gave up. The few times they did send someone out, it took at least a week for them to arrive. When they did, nothing was fixed, and they would hand the problem off to another department, in an endless run around. They never stopped taking my $54. a month though! Several times my internet was out for weeks at a time, and they didn't care. It's amazing how when I finally cancelled the service, they came out the next day and disconnected the line on the pole. Wow, if they had given me that kind of quick service when I was paying them, I would still have them! Make no mistake, all Comcast wants is your money, they don't care about complaints at all. Now the FCC lets them take over a major network NBC? Why would you reward a known antitrust law violator with this? Comcast rips off retired seniors (low income) by charging them $54. a month for cable internet now. When is the FCC going to make them help low income people? The FCC should FORCE Comcast to only charge retired seniors $10 for tv and $10 for internet every month, and DEMAND that they repair any problems the same DAY, not weeks after you call them! Hey Comcast, here's a clue, the darn phone doesn't work when the internet is off. Don't you think this is something that a retired senior might need in an emergency? The FCC needs to make Comcast behave before letting them takeover anything else.
    nevertell