ACA Targets Case For Comcast/NBCU Conditions

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The American Cable Association continues to push the Federal Communications Commission to adopt conditions on the Comcast/NBC Universal deal that it says would reduce the competitive harms to its members.

In a filing with the commission this week, ACA said its proposals did not go much beyond previous conditions on vertical mergers--like DirecTV/News Corp. and Time Warner Cable--and would "temper both the vertical and horizontal harms."

ACA wants Comcast/NBCU to have to make its TV stations and regional sports networks available to other pay TV distributors on a stand-alone basis, something station and cable news channel owner Allbritton Communications is also arguing strongly for.

It also wants independent baseball-style arbitration for stations, RSNs and national cable nets, a prohibition on charging smaller cable operators more than 5% more than the lowest price paid by a competing pay provider in a market for the NBC station or RSN.

ACA has pitched those conditions before, but said it was weighing in again to provide more explanation, point out the "shortcomings" in previous conditions on vertical mergers and to cover the horizontal issues it sees.

There have been reports that the FCC is considering arbitration conditions like those on DirecTV/News Corp.

An FCC spokesperson had no comment, but the fact that the FCC would be talking with industry players about similar conditions, given their precedent in prior vertical transactions, is not surprising.

The FCC and Justice Department are currently vetting the proposed $30 billion joint venture that would put Comcast in charge of NBC Universal. A decision is expected by the end of this year or early next.

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