NBC Universal/Comcast Merger Closer To Approval By FCC
Comcast Corp. is one step closer to acquiring NBC Universal after FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski gives conditional backing. The biggest concern by federal regulators is the perception of a fair market amongst media content providers and content distribution. This has rival media companies voicing concern over the conditions.
In 2009, Comcast reached a deal with NBC Universal to purchase the media company for nearly $14 billion in cash and assets. Since then, both the FCC and the U.S. Justice Department have been reviewing the proposed deal.
The Justice Department has been scrutinizing the deal and supporting documents for possible anti-trust violations, while the FCC, under Genachowski’s direction, has been providing a list of conditions required for FCC approval that delve mainly into ensuring that Comcast does not unfairly restrict other programming providers access to NBC content.
An additional FCC condition concerns Comcast's abiding by the concept of “Net Neutrality,” in that is does not restrict NBC competitors' access to their Internet network. This would mean that they could neither prohibit the competitors, nor prioritize their own content over their competitors'. These conditions would have to be adhered to for a minimum of 7 years for approval.
Competing media companies are expressing concern over these restrictions. Representatives for Time Warner, Disney, and News Corp have lobbied the FCC suggesting that these rules may restrict their ability to conduct business in the online video distribution industry and may impact current negotiations with established on-line providers.
However, some critics point out this may be a positive for consumers, as this might lessen the content distributors’ control of how the market might evolve.