Comcast Takeover of NBC Gets the Go-Ahead

The Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission announced on Tuesday that they would approve the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal, a deal that’s been in the works for over a year. From The Washington Post:

Together, the companies have 16.7 million broadband subscribers, about 23 million cable customer and dozens of lucrative channels such as USA, Bravo, MSNBC and CNBC.

In a 4-to-1 vote, the Federal Communications Commission determined the deal was in the nation’s public interest and assigned a number of conditions to the venture to ensure that Comcast shares content with cable competitors and gives other networks fair access to its customers.

For what this sizeable consolidation could mean for us customers and for the communications market overall, be sure to check out John Dunbar’s feature “A Television Deal for The Digital Age: How to worry about the Comcast-NBC Universal merger.” An excerpt:

Indeed, there are few rules that require Comcast to play nice with Internet competitors and, well, its reputation for just the opposite is pretty well known. Comcast was awarded “The Worst Company in America” award for 2010 by The Consumerist, a blog published by Consumers Union, which opposes the merger. Wired once dubbed Roberts “The Dark Lord of Broadband.” Its lengthy article described a bloody battle over Internet freedom, a fight that has some resonance with arguments being raised today by Netflix distributor Level 3 against the Comcast-NBC Universal merger.

Dunbar also explores the lengths to which Comcast went to virtually guarantee the deal would win approval:

Comcast, which counts seventy-eight former government employees as lobbyists, has spent heavily to convince members of Congress to support the deal. In the second quarter of 2010, the company spent $3.82 million on lobbying—the most it has spent in single quarter. Comcast has convinced a large number of lawmakers to support the deal. Bloomberg News reported that ninety-one House members and three Senators who received Comcast campaign contributions have written letters to the FCC supporting the merger.

Dunbar’s story was a joint project of CJR and the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University and appeared in CJR’s January/February 2011 issue.

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Lauren Kirchner is a freelance writer covering digital security for CJR. Find her on Twitter at @lkirchner