The FCC commissioners may have the rice in their hands, ready to toss it at the newly wedded Comcast and NBC Universal as they embark on their honeymoon. A positive vote may be imminent, is expected to be seconded quickly by the DOJ, and closing is expected before the end of the month.
According to reports, the deal may make it out of the FCC’s 8th Floor this week, even in the early part of the week. Although it is not known if Democrats Michael Copps and/or Mignon Clyburn will support it, the conventional wisdom is that it will get yes votes from Republicans Robert McDowell and Meredith Baker, and Chairman Julius Genachowski is a probably yes since he’s the one that put the on circulation measure with a recommendation of conditional approval in the first place.
When the measure was distributed to the commissioners at the end of December, FCC officials said on background that the agency considered harms and benefits, and in turn, mitigated harms and augmented benefits after the application of conditions, and determined that ultimately the transaction is in the public interest.
Areas of concern examined were access to NBCU programming by competitors, access to Comcast MVPD platforms by competing programming services, concerns about how the merger will affect the emerging internet video marketplace, and the usual public interest standards of competition, localism and diversity.
In the interim, the commissioners have had a chance to review the recommendation and suggest amendments.
A report in TheWrap.com goes so far as to predict closing on 1/28/11, which would allow the merger to pivot on the end of a pay period.
RBR-TVBR observation: As is common with media issues, support and opposition to this merger is not strictly a matter of party-line politics, although Republicans tend to approve and the opposition tends to come from Democrats. But there are business v. business aspects to the deal that tend to blur the lines. As far as the FCC goes, there are two Republicans likely to give the merger thumbs up. Add in just one Democrat, and the Chairman would be one, and the deal will clear the agency.