FCC ready to scrutinize Comcast-GE consolidation deal

by David Goetzl, MediaPost

Hours after Comcast and General Electric announced their intention to form a massive joint venture centered on content properties, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps issued a statement that was sharply skeptical of the deal.

"It will come as no news to them that they face a steep climb with me," he said as Comcast and GE pursue regulatory approval.

Copps said he continues to have concerns about "so few (media companies) controlling so much."

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sues he cited include: whether consumers will be forced to pay more for content delivery, the chance that one entity could control too much of the country's news outlets, and the impact on "minorities and diversity on the airwaves."

Furthermore, he indicated the proposed transaction might bring "even more urgent ... need for FCC network neutrality rules."

"I am anxious to hear from the parties to the deal about how they believe the proposed transaction, as presently constructed, advances the public interest," he said.

Nonetheless, companies as wired in Washington as Comcast and GE have surely gotten some indication that regulatory approval will eventually be granted. And the two no doubt have already been deep at work prepping counter-arguments to government suspicion.

At one point, News Corp. -- with DirecTV and a load of content producers -- had a similar structure to what Comcast might emerge with.

Copps is a Democrat, and some have suggested that government review of the proposed joint venture could prove to be a litmus test for how the Obama administration will view large-scale M&A activity in the media space.

Current News Corp. COO Chase Carey said recently that the deal "makes sense for Comcast."

However, he added: "I'd be stunned if this is a transaction that doesn't ... end with fairly regulatory baggage."

article originally published at MediaPost.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey