FCC Grants Approval Of Comcast-NBCU Transaction
via press release:
FCC GRANTS APPROVAL OF COMCAST-NBCU TRANSACTION
Washington, D.C. — Today, the Federal Communications Commission grants—with conditions andenforceable commitments—approval of the assignment and transfer of control of broadcast, satellite, andother radio licenses from General Electric Company (GE) to Comcast Corporation. The approval will allowGE and Comcast to create a joint venture involving NBC Universal, Inc. (NBCU) and Comcast. An Orderfurther explaining the Commission’s reasoning and the conditions and commitments will be issued shortly.
The Commission’s decision is based on a thorough review of the record,which includes extensive data and voluntary commitments from theapplicants, as well as thousands of comments from interested parties andpublic input received at a public forum held in Chicago. Based on this review,the Commission has determined that granting the application, with certainconditions and contingent upon enforceable commitments, is in the publicinterest.As part of the merger, Comcast-NBCU will be required to take affirmativesteps to foster competition in the video marketplace. In addition, Comcast-NBCU will increase local news coverage to viewers; expand children’sprogramming; enhance the diversity of programming available to Spanish-speaking viewers; offer broadband services to low-income Americans atreduced monthly prices; and provide high-speed broadband to schools,libraries and underserved communities, among other public benefits.More specifically, the
conditions imposed by the Commission address potential harms posed bythe combination of Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator and Internet service provider, and NBCU,which owns and develops some of the most valuable television and film content. These targeted conditionsand commitments, which generally will remain in effect for seven years, include:
Ensuring Reasonable Access to Comcast-NBCU Programming for MultichannelDistribution.
Building on successful requirements adopted in prior, similar transactions, theCommission is establishing for rival multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) animproved commercial arbitration process for resolving disputes about prices, terms, andconditions for licensing Comcast-NBCU’s video programming. The Commission is alsorequiring Comcast-NBCU to make available through this process its cable channels in additionto broadcast and regional sports network programming.
Protecting the Development of Online Competition.
Recognizing the risks thistransaction could present to the development of innovative online video distribution services,the Commission has adopted conditions designed to guarantee
online distributorsthe ability to obtain Comcast-NBCU programming in appropriate circumstances. Theseconditions respond directly to the concerns voiced by participants in the proceeding—including consumer advocates, online video distributors (OVDs), and MVPDs —whilerespecting the legitimate business interests of the Applicants to protect the value of theircontent. Among other things, the Commission requires that Comcast and/or Comcast-NBCU:
Provides to all MVPDs, at fair market value and non-discriminatory prices, terms,and conditions, any affiliated content that Comcast makes available online to its ownsubscribers or to other MVPD subscribers.
Offers its video programming to legitimate OVDs on the same terms and conditionsthat would be available to an MVPD.
Makes comparable programming available on economically comparable prices,terms, and conditions to an OVD that has entered into an arrangement to distributeprogramming from one or more of Comcast-NBCU’s peers.
Offers standalone broadband Internet access services at reasonable prices and of sufficient bandwidth so that customers can access online video services without theneed to purchase a cable television subscription from Comcast.
Does not enter into agreements to unreasonably restrict online distribution of itsown video programming or programming of other providers.
Does not disadvantage rival online video distribution through its broadband Internetaccess services and/or set-top boxes.
Does not exercise corporate control over or unreasonably withhold programmingfrom Hulu.
Access to Comcast’s Distribution Systems.
In light of the significant additional videoprogramming Comcast will control after the merger with NBCU—programming that maycompete with third-party programming Comcast currently carries or otherwise would carry onits MVPD service—the Commission requires that Comcast not discriminate in videoprogramming distribution on the basis of affiliation or non-affiliation with Comcast-NBCU.Moreover, if Comcast “neighborhoods” its news (including business news) channels, it mustinclude all unaffiliated news (or business news) channels in that neighborhood. TheCommission also adopts as a condition of the transaction Comcast’s voluntary commitmentto provide 10 new independent channels within eight years on its digital tier.
Protecting Diversity, Localism, Broadcast and Other Public Interest Concerns
. TheCommission is also imposing conditions and accepting voluntary commitments concerning anumbers of other public interest issues, including diversity, localism, and broadcasting,among others. For example, to protect the integrity of over-the-air broadcasting, network-affiliate relations, and fair and equitable retransmission consent negotiations with the jointventure, the Commission adopts a series of conditions that were independently negotiatedbetween the Applicants and various network affiliates.
Applicants have also made a number of additional voluntary commitments, many of which theCommission has adopted as conditions to the transaction’s approval. Most of these commitments aregeared towards enhancing the public interest as a result of the joint venture. These commitments include:
Broadband Adoption and Deployment
. Comcast will make available to approximately2.5 million low income households: (i) high-speed Internet access service for less than $10per month; (ii) personal computers, netbooks, or other computer equipment at a purchaseprice below $150; and (iii) an array of digital-literacy education opportunities. Comcast willalso expand its existing broadband networks to reach approximately 400,000 additionalhomes, provide broadband Internet access service in six additional rural communities, andprovide free video and high-speed Internet service to 600 new anchor institutions, such asschools and libraries, in underserved, low-income areas.
To further broadcast localism, Comcast-NBCU will maintain at least thecurrent level of news and information programming on NBC’s and Telemundo’s owned-and-operated (“O&O”) broadcast stations, and in some cases expand news and other localcontent. NBC and Telemundo O&O stations also will provide thousands of additional hours of local news and information programming to their viewers, and some of its NBC stations willenter into cooperative arrangements with locally focused nonprofit news organizations.Additional free, on-demand local programming will be made available as well.
Comcast-NBCU will increase the availability of children’sprogramming on its NBC and Telemundo broadcast stations, and add at least 1,500 morechoices to Comcast’s on-demand offerings for children. It will provide additional on-screenratings information for original entertainment programming on the Comcast-NBCU broadcastand cable television channels and improved parental controls. Comcast-NBCU also willrestrict interactive advertising aimed at children 12 years old and younger and provide publicservice announcements addressing children’s issues.
Building on Comcast’s voluntary commitments in this area, werequire Comcast-NBCU to increase programming diversity by expanding its over-the-airprogramming to the Spanish language-speaking community, and by making NBCU’s Spanish-language broadcast programming available via Comcast’s on demand and online platforms.As noted above, Comcast also will add at least 10 new independent channels to its cableofferings.
Public, Educational, and Governmental (“PEG”) Programming.
Comcast will safeguardthe continued accessibility and signal quality of PEG channels on its cable television systemsand introduce new on demand and online platforms for PEG content.
Action by the Commission January 18, 2011 by: Memorandum Opinion andOrder (FCC 11-4). Chairman Genachowski and Commissioner Clyburn, withCommissioners McDowell and Baker concurring, and Commissioner Coppsdissenting. Chairman Genachowski and Commissioners Clyburn and Coppseach issuing a separate statement, with Commissioners McDowell and Bakerissuing a joint statement. MB Docket No. 10-5