Washington begins to react to Comcast/NBC


The two Commerce Committee chairs have weighed in on the proposed acquisition of a controlling interest in NBC Universal by Comcast Corporation, and guess what: they are leery of the deal. The FCC also issued a tersely-worded statement.

First the FCC: Speaking on behalf of Chairman Julius Genachowski, Jen Howard said, “The FCC will carefully examine the proposed merger and will be thorough, fair, and fact-based in its review.”

House Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) is concerned about the deal and is rounding up his key subcommittee chair Rick Boucher (D-VA) to be a major part of the scrutinizing posse. He said, “The proposed Comcast-NBC Universal joint venture agreement has the potential to reshape the media marketplace. This proposal raises questions regarding diversity, competition, and the future of the production and distribution of video content across broadcasting, cable, online, and mobile platforms. It is imperative that the FCC, the Justice Department, and the FTC rigorously assess whether this transaction is in the public interest. I will work with Rep. Rick Boucher, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, to schedule hearings on this matter at the earliest practicable date.”

Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is starting out with a dim view of the transaction, saying, “I have some serious questions about the deal announced for Comcast to assume control of NBC Universal. A joint venture of this magnitude would benefit from regulatory oversight.  When major media companies swell to control both content and distribution, we need to make sure consumers are not left with lesser content and higher rates.”

RBR-TVBR observation: Does anybody think this deal will be a simple matter of a handshake, a moneygram and a couple of signatures? Of course not. The path to closing will at a minimum go through the Capitol and the FCC, the FTC or DOJ, and may even include a few other regulatory stops on the itinerary.