FCC Denies Petition To Delay Comcast/NBCU Merger Review

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The Federal Communications Commission has denied a petition to stay its consideration of the Comcast/NBCU merger and conduct a preliminary inquiry, including public hearings, into the "diversity content implications" of the deal for Asian Americans and other minorities.

In rejecting the request by the Mabuhay Alliance, a "Pan-Asian" group that has raised questions about media content diversity in the past, the FCC said there would be plenty of opportunity to raise those issues in the course of its review.

"We find no reason to depart from the procedure the Commission has established for reviewing the proposed transaction, and we therefore deny the Petition," the FCC said in a brief (less-than-two-pages) order released Monday.

Mabuhay had also asked that a "special master" be appointed to get information from both companies on five years' worth of data on programs that reference Asian Americans, Asian Americans employed in top positions by the companies and philanthropic investments in the Asian American community.

The FCC also rejected that request, saying that if the commission wants to, it can gather that data itself "through usual discovery procedures, if it so chooses." That is the argument that Comcast and NBC had made in asking the FCC to deny the petition.

The FCC on March 18 released its notice seeking public comment on the proposed $30 billion joint venture

Mabuhay had complained that "the combined 749 page [Comcast/NBCU deal] application and appendix contain no references to America's 15 million Asian Americans or any references as to their past treatment or future treatment by Comcast and NBCU," the alliance said in a March 15 filing opposing the deal as currently constituted. But they suggested there was a way to make them happier.

"As a condition for allowing this proceeding to continue," they said. "we formally request that the FCC order Comcast to revise its 145 page application and set forth specific and unique benefits this acquisition will have for 15 million Asian Americans, including those most ignored, such as Vietnamese Americans, Korean Americans, Filipino Americans, Samoans, Hmong, Thais, Cambodians and Indonesians."

But they were looking for bucks as sell as benefits. Other items on their deal wish list include getting Comcast to pony up $1 billion to the FCC for a "diversity fund" to promote minority media and create a paid ("fully compensate" 11-member Asian American Advisory Board.

At the time, a Comcast spokesperson said that the company has been in continuing discussions regarding the Comcast-NBCU joint venture with the leadership of multiple national diversity organizations including the Asian American Justice Center.

For its Comcast/NBCU vetting, the FCC at press time was on day 18 of what is an informal 180-day shot clock for completing merger reveiws  But the deadline is not official and many reviews have far exceeded that under previous chairmen. The Comcast/NBCU review is widely expected to take close to a year to complete. The Justice Department is holding a separate antitrust review of the deal, which historically would preceed the FCC decision, though that is not a hard-and-fast rule, either.

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