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FCC Nearing OK Of Comcast-NBCU Deal With Conditions

The Federal Communications Commission is reportedly just days away from approval of the merger between Comcast Corp. and NBC Universal with a battery of conditions, some designed to mitigate transaction-specific harms identified by the American Cable Association in detailed filings and economic studies submitted during the past year, according to news accounts.

The $30 billion Comcast-NBCU deal, announced Dec. 3, 2009, would put Comcast in control of 10 NBC TV stations, more than a dozen top-tier NBC national cable networks and about 9 regional sports networks - all-must have content for pay-TV providers, especially those that compete head-to-head with Comcast for cable and broadband subscribers. Comcast already is the largest cable operator and residential broadband access provider in the nation.

ACA has repeatedly expressed concern that media consolidation on such a large scale would give Comcast-NBCU the incentive and ability to undermine competition by charging direct rivals programming fees far in excess of market levels, greatly harming their ability to retain and attract subscribers. ACA also warned that Comcast-NBCU's control of such key content assets would cause programming fees to rise for all pay-TV distributors, whether or not they directly compete for customers in Comcast franchise areas. ACA also called for an arbitration process to resolve programming fee disputes that did not impose excessive financial burdens on small cable operators.

"ACA demonstrated that the deal, as proposed, will force consumers to pay an additional $2.4 billion more for Comcast-NBCU programming, justifying FCC conditions that will restrain Comcast-NBCU from abusing its market power to gouge ACA members and the millions of consumers they serve," Polka said.

According to published reporters, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski supports approval of the Comcast-NBCU merger with conditions in a 280-page merger order distributed to the other four commissioners on Dec. 23.

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