FCC Approves Comcast-NBCU Merger

FCC, Media ownership, Net Neutrality January 18th, 2011

, Managing Editor, BroadbandBreakfast.com

WASHINGTON – The Federal Communications Commission announced Tuesday afternoon that it had come to an agreement with Comcast and NBC Universal to approve the merger of the two companies.

The Commission gave the merger the go ahead after the companies agreed to a number of conditions, among them adherence to the FCC’s recent Open Internet Order, even if the courts strike the measure down.  Other provisions in the agreement included providing increased Spanish-language and children’s programming, as well as relinquishing managerial control over Hulu, an NBCU-owned free video content provider that competes with Comcast’s Video On Demand service.

The FCC, which is charged with balancing whether the media merger is in the public interest, passed on approval of the deal by a vote of 4-1.  Chairman Julius Genachowski and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn voted in favor of the order, with Commissioners Robert McDowell and Meredith Baker concurring in the result.  Genachowski emphasized the conditions as a means to provide greater service to the public interest.

“The conditions include carefully considered steps to ensure that competition drives innovation in the emerging online video marketplace,” the Chairman said through a statement.  “Our approval is also 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.”

Only Commissioner Michael Copps dissented, saying in a statement that the merger “confers too much power in one company’s hands,” and despite the Commission’s best efforts to impose ameliorating conditions, the joint venture “greviously fails the public interest.”

The Department of Justice is expected to announce that it has also reached an agreement with Comcast and NBCU not to sue to block the condition-laden merger.  The merger will combine the nation’s largest internet provider with one of the nation’s premiere content services.

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