Comcast/NBC Marriage Could Get FCC Blessing Today

The way could soon be clear for the country’s largest cable TV provider (and reigning Worst Company In America) to acquire a majority share of the country’s fourth-ranked broadcast TV network, as reports claim the FCC will be voting today to approve the joining of Comcast and NBC Universal.

From the Washington Post:

According to sources familiar with the thinking of the Federal Communications Commission, the deal will be approved 4 to 1, with Democrat Michael J. Copps dissenting. The senior commissioner has consistently expressed concern that the joint venture would harm the public interest as too much control of content goes into the hands of a company that also controls how consumers access the Internet and television.

Before Christmas, FCC chief Julius Genachowski reportedly gave his blessing to the deal with a few stipulations. According to the Wall Street Journal, Comcast would be required to offer NBC programming to any online video provider who has reached a similar deal for content from one of NBC’s competitors, such as Disney Fox. Additionally, Genachowski proposed a regulation requiring Comcast to keep similar channels, like sports or news channels, close together on most cable systems.

Still, the deal has many detractors, including Consumerist’s parent company Consumers Union. “This is a bad deal because it would give Comcast powerful incentives to withhold NBC content from competitors and drive up prices for cable TV and Internet,” explains CU’s policy counsel, Parul P. Desai. “The combination of Comcast and NBC would be a media giant with great potential for abusive behavior. In this economy, consumers should not be at risk of bigger bills for cable and Internet service.”

In November, Senator Al Franken (who rose to fame as a writer and cast member on NBC’s Saturday Night Live) asked the Justice Dept. to investigate the merger, claiming that Comcast had violated the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 by jumping the gun and naming who would be the top executives at the merged company.

FCC expected to approve Comcast-NBC merger on Tuesday [Washington Post]