Comcast Celebrates Compliance with NBCU Merger Conditions
It's been a year since Comcast got the green light to merge with NBC Universal and the company says it has gone "above and beyond" to meet the commitments it agreed to in order to win regulatory approval of the deal.
In its first compliance report filed with the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday, Comcast detailed its efforts to comply with the conditions it agreed to when it gained approval of its merger with NBCU. The conditions it says it has been working to meet include a pledge to help spur broadband adoption by offering lower-cost broadband connections to 41,000 homes, to increase the number of independent cable networks it carries, and expand its commitment to local news by investing "millions" in the 10 local news stations NBC owns.
The report "shows the extensive measures we've taken to comply with and in many cases go above and beyond our commitments and the FCC's conditions in connection with the NBC Universal transaction," Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen wrote in a blog post Tuesday on its report to the FCC. "As the report shows, our commitments and the conditions, though extensive, have been incorporated into our business activities and become part of the company's 'DNA.'"
But some of the company's critics beg to differ. They include financial news and data provider Bloomberg, which argues that Comcast-NBCU has refused to abide by its pledge to ensure Bloomberg's financial news network is grouped with other news channels including NBCU's CNBC financial news channel on Comcast cable systems.
"Comcast's report to the FCC includes revisionist language that deliberately misstates its own legally binding commitments to [FCC] Chairman [Julius] Genachowski and the American people on the news neighborhooding condition in the Order on Comcast-NBC-Universal," Greg Babyak, who heads government affairs for Bloomberg, said in a statement. "Comcast has refused to implement this time-limited condition for more than a year. Now means now, and news does not -- as Comcast claims -- mean infomercials. It's now time for the FCC to move swiftly to force the company to live up to its commitments."
Bloomberg filed a complaint with the FCC last summer claiming that Comcast-NBCU had failed to abide by this condition. It is waiting for the commission to rule on the matter. In its report Tuesday, Comcast argued that it has not "rearranged any news channels into a neighborhood since the close of transaction and, as a result, has not incurred any obligation to neighborhood news channels."
While Comcast touted deals it has made with online video distributors to gain access to NBC programming, Free Press, which joined other public interest groups in opposing the merger, said it doubted Comcast-NBCU's willingness to promote competition in the online video market.
"These core conditions are the only things preventing Comcast from using its market dominance to disadvantage its rivals and limit consumer choice in programming and video services," Free Press Senior Policy Counsel Corie Wright said. "We urge the FCC to ensure that these conditions are being enforced and that competition and consumer choice is protected."