Boucher Backs Comcast-NBCU Deal


In letters to the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department, House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher (D-Va.) has asked both the approve the Comcast/NBCU $30 billion joint venture, but he also recommends applying conditions on access to video programming online.
"After reviewing the matter, I urge the FCC [and the "Department"] to approve the Comcast-NBC Universal combination," Boucher wrote, according to copies of the letter supplied by his office.
Then he asked them both to "consider and address" the following proposed conditions to "mitigate the potential for harm to competition and consumers."
His proposals include 1) preventing any shows now delivered over the NBC broadcast network from migrating to the TV Everywhere platform; 2) prohibiting exclusive online programming deals for programming in which the companies have an attributable interest; 3) prohibiting blocking access to competitors video programming; 4) a prohibition on migration of NBC broadcast sports to cable-exclusive play (Boucher recognizes that would essentially be incorporating an agreement Comcast has already made with NBC affiliates to that effect; 5) a requirement that programming in which the companies have a financial interest must be able to be placed on any Internet-enabled device so long as it does not compromise the look, function, or copyright protection of the service.
Boucher suggested that a network neutrality condition should not be applied. He pointed to ongoing discussions about a potential legislative fix, and said that if those are successful the Congress would be working on a bill to apply a "uniform set" of openness principles.
Those would have universal application, he said, but in the meantime, "it would be highly inappropriate to impose network openness requirements on a single broadband provider," he said, "Accordingly, I urge that the Department not impose any conditions on its approval of the Comcast-NBCU combination regarding network openness.
Comcast and NBCU execs have said they are open to discussing other conditions, but feel that they have already offered up a full plate of them regarding everything from diversity and retrans to access to independent programming.