Call for NBCU-Comcast Conditions Grows Louder

The call for conditions to be placed on the regulatory approval of Comcast’s proposed deal to control 51 percent of NBC Universal is getting louder.

On Tuesday (Dec. 7) Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski proposing a number of conditions.

Waxman also urged that the FCC conclude its review by the end of the year, if possible. The conditions would ensure that competing program distributors have access to Comcast and NBCU programming, prevent Comcast-NBCU from blocking or degrading online content that competes with the combined company, and provide other protections for unaffiliated cable programmers and independent programmers.

“If the merger is approved, it could trigger significant changes in the way consumers access video programming, in the way independent programmers distribute their works, and in the way all video distributors compete for customers,” Waxman wrote.

In the final days of review, a number of groups and companies have stepped up lobbying efforts in the halls of Congress and at the FCC to urge that conditions be placed on the unprecedented $30 billion deal. In a press conference Tuesday morning, the American Cable Association discussed how it and three of its member companies were making the rounds this week visiting congressional leaders and the FCC.

“Without conditions, the merger will cause $2.6 billion in harm to consumers over nine years, plus harm competition,” said Matthew Polka, president and CEO of ACA, which represents 1,000 small cable operators. “We’re not looking to delay this merger, we’d just like conditions. We’re in there making our case. We think they’re listening.”

Comcast and NBCU executives are also meeting with regulators.

Fearing that the regulatory review could go into next year, Comcast and NBCU extended the terms of the deal to March.