Monday, January 17, 2011

Comcast-NBCU Brings Conditions

In approving the Comcast-NBCU mega-merger, the FCC and the Department of Justice imposed a number of conditions and commitments which generally will remain in effect for seven years. These are aimed at preventing potential harms posed by the combination of Comcast, the nation's largest cable operator and Internet service provider, and
NBCU, which owns and develops some of the most valuable television and film content. ensuring an open market for digital content and The FCC enumerated conditions these as follows:

Ensuring Reasonable Access to Comcast-NBCU Programming for Multichannel Distribution -- rival multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) will be given an improved commercial arbitration process for resolving disputes about prices, terms, and conditions for licensing Comcast-NBCU's video programming. Comcast-NBCU is required to make available through this process its cable channels in addition to broadcast and regional sports network programming.

Protecting the Development of Online Competition -- online video distributors (OVDs) are guaranteed the ability to obtain Comcast-NBCU programming in appropriate circumstances. These conditions specifically require that Comcast-NBCU:

  • Provides to all multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), at fair market value and non-discriminatory prices, terms, and conditions, any affiliated content that Comcast makes available online
    to its own subscribers or to other MVPD subscribers.

  • Offers its video programming to legitimate OVDs on the same terms and conditions that would be available to an MVPD.

  • Makes comparable programming available on economically comparable prices, terms, and conditions to an OVD that has entered into an arrangement to distribute programming from one or more of Comcast-NBCU's peers.

  • Offers standalone broadband Internet access services at reasonable prices and of sufficient bandwidth so that customers can access online video services without the need to purchase a cable television subscription from Comcast.

  • Does not enter into agreements to unreasonably restrict online distribution of its own video programming or programming of other providers.

  • Does not disadvantage rival online video distribution through its broadband Internet access services and/or set-top boxes.

  • Does not exercise corporate control over or unreasonably withhold programming from Hulu.

Access to Comcast's Distribution Systems. Comcast may not discriminate in video programming distribution on the basis of affiliation or nonaffiliation with Comcast-NBCU. Moreover, if Comcast "neighborhoods" its news
(including business news) channels, it must include all unaffiliated news (or business news) channels in that neighborhood. The Commission also adopts as a condition of the transaction Comcast's voluntary commitment to provide 10 new independent channels within eight years on its digital tier.

Protecting Diversity, Localism, Broadcast and Other Public Interest Concerns. The Commission is also imposing conditions and accepting voluntary commitments concerning a numbers of other public interest issues, including diversity, localism, and broadcasting, among others.

Comcast-NBCU also made a number of additional voluntary commitments, including:

Broadband Adoption and Deployment. Comcast will make available to approximately 2.5 million low income households: (i) high-speed Internet access service for less than $10 per month; (ii) personal computers, netbooks, or other computer equipment at a purchase price below $150; and (iii) an array of digital literacy education opportunities.

Comcast will also expand its existing broadband networks to reach approximately 400,000 additional homes, provide broadband Internet access service in six additional rural communities, and provide free video and high-speed Internet service to 600 new anchor institutions, such as schools and libraries, in underserved, low-income areas.

Localism. To further broadcast localism, Comcast-NBCU will maintain at least the current level of news and information programming on NBC's and Telemundo's owned-and-operated broadcast stations, and in some cases expand news and other local content.

Children's Programming. Comcast-NBCU will increase the availability of children's programming on its NBC and Telemundo broadcast stations, and add at least 1,500 more choices to Comcast's on-demand offerings for children.

Programming Diversity. Building on Comcast's voluntary commitments in this area,
we require Comcast-NBCU to increase programming diversity by expanding its over the-air programming to the Spanish language-speaking community, and by making NBCU's Spanish-language broadcast programming available via Comcast's on demand and online platforms.

Public, Educational, and Governmental Programming. Comcast will safeguard the continued accessibility and signal quality of PEG channels on its cable television systems and introduce new on demand and online platforms for PEG content.