Updated: 12:40 pm.
Senior Federal Communications Commission officials Thursday said Chairman Julius Genachowski has begun circulating an order that would approve the proposed merger of Comcast with NBC Universal with narrowly drafted conditions.
During a briefing, the FCC officials said the order being circulated among the commission's four other members for comment and deliberation concludes that approval of the deal with the proposed conditions meets the public interest standard that the agency must use to evaluate such mergers. The term deals with such issues as competition, localism and diversity. Comcast and NBCU had to prove that their deal will meet this standard.
The officials did not provide specific details of the order or the proposed conditions but said they deal with such issues as program access, program carriage, and online access to Comcast-NBCU content, as well as broadcast diversity, localism and other issues.
The officials stressed that the conditions were specific to the merger and not aimed at addressing broad policy issues.
How the merger would affect the distribution of content online has been a major area of concern for critics of the merger. The FCC officials were asked whether the conditions would deal with the ability of other online providers to get content from Comcast-NBCU, the ability of Comcast subscribers to reach programming not provided by Comcast-NBCU, and the ability of non-Comcast subscribers to obtain access online to content controlled by the joint company. An FCC official would not provide any details except to say those were areas the agency had examined.
Some online distributors such as ivi TV, which allows consumers to gain online access to a variety of broadcast programming for a $4.99 monthly fee, has argued that Comcast has tried to block ivi's access to programming by pressuring other programming providers not to give other distributors access to their content.
Corie Wright with Free Press, which opposes the merger, told Tech Daily Dose that her group is concerned that the conditions being proposed in the order would only require Comcast to make NBCU programming available online to firms like ivi or other online distributors if other content providers such as Disney or Viacom also provide their programming to these distributors.