Thursday, January 20, 2011
The FCC granted approval for the NBC-Comcast transaction yesterday. The deal was announced last Spring and has been pending approval since then. You'll remember that because the NBC-Comcast deal involves broadcast and cable properties, it required the approval of the FCC in addition to the normal antitrust review. The standard for the FCC in passing on deals is whether the transaction is in the public interest. That's a fairly broad and vaguely worded mandate. So, one shouldn't be surprised that there are differences of opinion on the panel as to what that interest actually is. In the end, the FCC approved the deal with a number of conditions, including selling off control of Hulu so that it can freely compete with Comcast's Xfinity service. The FCC press release approving the transaction is here.
Of course, it wasn't all roses for the deal. There were dissents on the FCC panel. Here's Commissioner Copp's dissent and his summary of the effects of the transaction:
In sum, this is simply too much, too big, too powerful, too lacking in benefits for American consumers and citizens. I have respect for the business acumen of the applicants, and have no doubts that they will strive to make Comcast-NBCU a financial success. But simply blessing business deals is not the FCC’s statutorily-mandated job. Our job is to determine whether the record here demonstrates that this new media giant will serve the public interest. While I welcome the improvements made to the original terms, at the end of the day this transaction is a huge boost for media industry (and digital industry) consolidation. It puts new media on a road traditional media should never have taken. It further erodes diversity, localism and competition—the three essential pillars of the public interest standard mandated by law. I would be true to neither the statute nor to everything I have fought for here at the Commission over the past decade if I did not dissent from what I consider to be a damaging and potentially dangerous deal.
Time will tell.