Affils Back Comcast, With Conditions


WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications
Commission closed its first
round of comments on Comcast’s
proposed deal for control of NBC
Universal last week.

Score the round in favor of those
who back the deal, through which
NBCU would become a Comcastrun
joint venture with the Peacock
Network’s current corporate parent,
General Electric.

Petitions to deny came from expected
sources. Media Access Project,
Free Press, Consumers Union and
Consumer Federation of America
said the deal should be rejected, no
matter what the conditions. Deal opponents,
though, have said they expect
it to be approved, probably with
some conditions.

Network affiliates gave a cautious
endorsement to the merger. Groups
representing affiliates of all of the
major networks said they had received
assurances from Comcast that clear
the way for their support — especially
with regards to fair treatment in
retransmission-consent talks.

NBC affiliates endorsed the deal
first. They said Comcast made key
commitments to keep must-have
sports programming on over-air TV
and to deal fairly on affiliation renewals
regardless of what happens in
retransmission negotiations. Comcast
also promised to not undercut the
stations by shifting NBC programming
directly to cable.

NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox affiliates
all said the FCC should incorporate
Comcast’s commitment to fair dealing
into “binding conditions” for merger

The non-NBC-affiliated stations,
which also reached informal agreements
with Comcast, want the cable company
to have to negotiate “at arms length”
and “in good faith” with them.

They also want assurances Comcast
that won’t make technological moves
that would favor NBC Universal ownedand-
operated stations — for example,
downgrading other stations to standard
definition from HDTV.