NY Times, B&C Editorialize on Comcast-NBCU Merger as the Process Nears its End

By Alex Weprin Comment

With the proposed merger between Comcast and NBC Universal entering its final stages, The New York Times and TV trade bible Broadcasting & Cable have weighed in on the deal in dueling editorials.

At the moment the merger is in the hands of lawyers at the U.S. Department of Justice, who are investigating anti-trust complaints, and at the Federal Communications  Commission, which is looking into the broadcast and internet ramifications.

In an editorial this week (subscription required) B&C said the DOJ and FCC ought to get going and approve the deal:

And not to bury the lead, but the FCC and Justice ought to approve this deal, and sooner rather than later, so Comcast and NBCU can get on with the business of remaking themselves for an uncertain and challenging future.

The New York Times, in an editorial today, takes a decidedly different position:

Regulators do not need to rush. The combined company would have the ability, and the incentive, to hamstring online innovation. The F.C.C. and the Justice Department must carefully assess potential threats to the new competition and put precise conditions on a merger to prevent the new media goliath from stamping it out…

If the merger between Comcast and NBC is to be approved, these tactics must be put off limits. The merged company must be made to provide content not only to rival cable systems but also to Internet-only rivals, on reasonable terms. And it should also commit, in a legally binding way, to offer reasonably priced broadband subscriptions independent of its TV bundles.

It certainly appears as though the deal is nearing approval, though it may not happen by the end of the year. The big question, as B&C notes, is what the conditions placed on the two companies will be.

We are told that the current draft order on the Comcast/NBCU decision is a couple of hundred pages long, which unless it is a really long “Dear John” note to the deal means it is probably a combination of conditions—everybody expects them—and some recounting of the huge data drop the FCC required of Comcast and NBCU as it vetted their deal.

Stay tuned, the end is on the horizon…