UPDATE: In a 4-1 vote, the FCC has approved Comcast’s merger with NBC Universal. Democrat commissioner Michael Copps cast the lone dissenting opinion, saying that “it confers too much power in one company’s hands.” The deal should close by the end of January.
Of course, there are plenty of conditions set forth by the FCC regarding the marriage. FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said these will “include carefully considered steps to ensure that competition drives innovation in the emerging online video marketplace.” Among the conditions, Comcast will be required to offer online versions of its TV shows to all reasonable distributors under the terms it now offers those shows to cable and satellite providers. Comcast will also be required to build more of a broadband infrastructure, offering speedy Web service to millions of low-income households for less than $10 a month. It also will be required to reach more homes — about 400,000 of them — and provide high-speed Internet access to more schools and libraries.
EARLIER: Now the real renovation work begins. The FCC is expected to greenlight one of Big Media’s mammoth deals in recent times: the nation’s biggest cable company Comcast gobbling up the majority ownership of NBC Universal as General Electric eventually gets out of the entertainment business to focus on industrial acquisitions. Approval of the $30 billion joint venture will come with plenty of demands about across-all-platforms access to content, and network neutrality conditions, and other conditions aimed at preventing further erosions of competition. (Of course, we all know such regulatory attempts are a crock: Big Media just keeps getting more powerful and more dictatorial.) The FCC’s okay has taken nearly a year to complete and news reports say the approval order will be essentially the same as the draft circulated December 21st, with a few edits from commissioners. The final approval needed is from the U.S. Department Of Justice, which could come today as well. The question now is what are the first changes about to be ordered by NBCU boss Steve Burke who in every respect is taking charge of a fixer-upper on both the film and broadcast (but not cable) sides. Major executives shuffling already was announced. But now the emphasis has to be on content and synergy.