The Federal Communications Commission has approved a merger between cable operator Comcast and television network and media company NBC Universal. The deal has a number of strings attached according to a Washington Post report, but many net groups think that the agency didn’t go far enough in its conditions for approval of the deal. When the deal is complete, Comcast (the country’s largest cable television provider) will control such networks as USA, Bravo, MSNBC, NBC, and CNBC – to name a few.
Four out of five commissioners voted to approve the merger. The Justice Department also gave the green light for the deal today.
"After a thorough review, we have adopted strong and fair merger conditions to ensure this transaction serves the public interest," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said.
Some of the specific FCC conditions included requiring Comcast to offer Internet versions of its content to "bona fide" online distributors of video at the same terms and conditions it gives to cable and satellite providers. Examples of services that this might benefit include Apple TV and YouTube.
The FCC did not require Comcast to divest its interest in the Hulu video service – something that lawmakers like as Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) had proposed as a condition of the deal. Hulu is a joint venture between NBC, News Corp., and the Walt Disney Co.
Comcast also has to provide broadband Internet as a stand-alone service at "reasonable prices" and with "sufficient bandwidth" so customers can watch video online without having to also subscribe to cable television. Comcast also promised to contribute more local news, informational programming, more programming for children and minorities, and a $9.95 broadband Internet service for low-income households.
The lone vote against the merger came from Democratic Commissioner Michael J. Copps, who said that the concentration of media under Comcast’s control would put too much power into the hands of one company.