Feds Approve Comcast-NBCU Merger

Approval from FCC, Department of Justice clears the way for expected Jan. 28 closure of the mega-deal

The Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice approved Tuesday the $30 billion mega-merger of Comcast and NBC Universal.

With those decisions, the merger is expected to finally close on Jan. 28, according to sources close to the process.

Both the FCC and DOJ imposed conditions designed to ensure that the new company would not unfairly limit other companies' access to its content, or limit consumers' access to other companies' content. Comcast is barred, for example, from managing Hulu, a joint venture of NBCU, Fox Entertainment, and ABC.

The FCC approved the public interest portion of the mergers while the DOJ approved the antitrust components.

The FCC passed the merger with votes from two Democrats and two Republicans on the commission. The sole dissenter was Democratic Commissioner Michael J. Copps, who said in a statement that the transaction was "like no other that has come before this Commission—ever."

"It reaches into virtually every corner of our media and digital landscapes and will affect every citizen in the land," Copps said. "It is new media as well as old; it is news and information as well as sports and entertainment; it is distribution as well as content. And it confers too much power in one company’s hands."

The two Republican commissioners, Robert M. McDowell and Meredith Attwell Baker, said in a joint statement that the merger was "a complex and significant transaction that has the potential to bring exciting benefits to consumers that outweigh potential harms." They also said the FCC's approach to merger approvals had become "excessively coercive and lengthy" — a refernce to the more than yearlong wait for approval after the deal was announced in December 2009.

Prior to Tuesday's vote, several FCC commissioners sought conditions relating to such issues as broadcast diversity and net neutrality.

Comcast had already agreed to an additional 1,000 hours per year of additional news programming for its NBC and Telemundo stations. It also agreed to abide by FCC’s net neutrality rules for seven years, regardless of whether any of them are reversed in court.

The agreement will give Comcast a controlling 51 percent stake in the company, with General Electric retaining 49 percent.

The newly merged conglomerate's executive structure puts Bob Greenblatt and Ted Harbert in charge, with more than a half-dozen executives expected to report directly to new NBCU CEO Steve Burke. Current CEO Jeff Zucker will leave, along with NBCU Television Entertainment chairman Jeff Gaspin, Zucker's chief spokeswoman, Allison Golllust, and ad sales chief Mike Pilot.

Ron Meyer will continue as president and COO of Universal Studios. Adam Fogelson will continue as chairman of Universal Pictures.

TheWrap broke the news of merger talks in September 2009.