December 24, 2010

FCC To Set Conditions For Comcast-NBC Deal

U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski has proposed that Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal be approved with conditions, the AFP news agency reported on Thursday, citing agency officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

While the FCC officials did not disclose specific details about any of the proposed conditions tied to the deal, they said they relate to issues such as access to programming and online video distribution.

Genachowski will circulate a draft order summarizing the conditions to other FCC members, officials said, after which the full five-member panel would vote on the measure.

NBC Universal's cable and broadcast holdings include NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo, The Weather Channel and Telemundo, while Comcast runs a multitude of television channels, including the Golf Channel, the Style Network and E! Entertainment Television.  A Comcast takeover of NBC Universal would combine the cable giant's television and Internet operations with NBC Universal's immense news, movie and television programming, creating a powerful media empire that would rival The Walt Disney Company.

However, the deal has come under scrutiny from the FCC, the Justice Department, consumer groups and some lawmakers, who are concerned the takeover would give Comcast too much power.

In a statement, Comcast hinted that it could accept what it believes to be in Genachowski's proposal, saying the conditions would ensure the deal provides "real public interest benefits" and would allow "Comcast to operate the NBC Universal and legacy Comcast businesses in an appropriate way."

The Justice Department has not yet issued its opinion on the deal, which includes General Electric selling 51 percent of its stake in NBC Universal to Comcast, the nation's largest cable television and high-speed broadband provider.

The European Commission approved the takeover in July, and Comcast has said it hoped to finalize the deal by the end of this year.  However, it is now not expected to close until early 2011.


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