In the land of mega-meals and mega-churches, it’s only natural that we’d have a mega-media-JV like the one announced today between Comcast (s CMCSA) and NBC (s GE). But a deal this big will naturally bring along with it some regulatory scrutiny.
The CEO of the new venture, Jeff Zucker, sent out a memo to NBC staffers today reinforcing what experts have said, that the regulatory approvals “will take 9 to 12 months.”
No sooner had Zucker written those words than the wheels of government were set in motion as House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) called for hearings on the NBC-Comcast deal “at the earliest practicable date.” Waxman said in a statement:
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.
He’s not the only one questioning this union. The Free Press and Consumer Federation of America released a statement today arguing that Comcast/NBC “would seriously harm the public interest,” saying it would hurt competition in traditional video markets and the emerging online video market as well as triggering more media consolidation. Read their full report (PDF).
Public-interest advocacy group Public Knowledge also released a statement saying:
The combination of the country’s largest cable company, a TV network and a movie studio could present grave dangers to a free and open Internet. The sheer size of the transaction makes a Net Neutrality rule that much more necessary, as more content comes under the control of another giant media company. Regulators will have to make certain that Comcast does not give advantage to NBC programs and films over others.
Now we just have to wait and see if the Obama administration will be a mega-headache for this mega-deal.