The entertainment world just got a little bit more conglomerated: The FCC has settled on the conditions needed for it to approve the long-debated joint venture between NBC Universal (s GE) and Comcast (s CMCSA) today, thus allowing the companies to finally complete a move that’s been in the works for over a year now. Those conditions signal that the FCC fully recognizes the importance of online video.
A statement released by the FCC details the following conditions for the deal, which include:
- Ensuring Reasonable Access to Comcast-NBCU Programming for Multichannel Distribution, which means the FCC is improving its arbitration process for issues involving Comcast-NBC programming.
- Protecting Diversity, Localism, Broadcast and Other Public Interest Concerns, which includes venture capital for minority start-ups.
- Broadband Adoption and Deployment, which includes measures like creating a program to offer low-income families cheap broadband service.
- Protecting access to Comcast’s distribution systems, including a provision to offer “10 new independent channels within eight years on its digital tier.”
- Localism, which is directed at making sure NBC and Telemundo stations maintain or expand the current level of news and information programming.
- The increased availability of children’s programming.
- The increased expansion of Spanish-language programming, including availability on Comcast’s on demand and online platforms.
- The safeguarding of public, educational and governmental programming.
Here’s the big one, though: Protecting the Development of Online Competition, which includes the following sub-points:
- Offers its video programming to legitimate OVDs on the same terms and conditions that 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 distribute programming from one or more of
- Offers standalone broadband Internet access services at reasonable prices and of sufficient bandwidth so that customers can access online video services without the need to purchase a cable television subscription from Comcast.
- Does not enter into agreements to unreasonably restrict online distribution of its own video programming or programming of other providers.
- Does not disadvantage rival online video distribution through its broadband Internet access services and/or set-top boxes.
- Does not exercise corporate control over or unreasonably withhold programming from Hulu.
The language is strong, but the loopholes and omissions in these conditions will undoubtedly become clear over the next few months. According to FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps in his dissenting statement:
In sum, this is simply too much, too big, too powerful, too lacking in benefits for American consumers and citizens. I have respect for the business acumen of the applicants, and have no doubts that they will strive to make Comcast-NBCU a financial success. But simply blessing business deals is not the FCC’s statutorily-mandated job. Our job is to determine whether the record here demonstrates that this new media giant will serve the public interest.
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