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Media Access Project Condemns FCC Approval of Comcast-NBCU Deal
[January 19, 2011]

Media Access Project Condemns FCC Approval of Comcast-NBCU Deal

TMCnet Contributor
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s approval to Internet and cable provider Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal (News - Alert) will have devastating impact on free speech, according to Media Access Project.

The FCC approved the deal for 4-1 vote, with FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps (News - Alert) voting against.

"Free expression online and on television will be worse off. Commissioner Copps was right to dissent, since the conditions adopted by the Commission do not go far enough to justify approval of this deal," said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, senior vice president and policy director of Media Access Project, in a statement.
"The announcement sends a message to other phone and cable companies that they, too, can buy content providers. We may be about to see a new wave of media consolidation as a result," Schwartzman added.
The majority added important measures to minimize the damage to pay-TV competitors, and to help the emerging market for online video.
According to Media Access Project, though there are provisions to promote Internet competition, the failure to require Comcast to open its Internet services to competing broadband providers is disappointing.
The Commission has not helped independent video programmers gain carriage on Comcast's systems. The promise of a future review of the Commission's industry-wide rules does not recognize that Comcast will have power to block content providers from getting off the ground.
Schwartzman said the Commission's treatment of network neutrality is unsettling, and the Chairman was willing to water down the network neutrality provision to satisfy open Internet opponents and it is disturbing.
The Commissioner believes the FCC did not handle the matter in line with Chairman's promise of bringing transparency to the proceedings. While the Commission made efforts to encourage public involvement in the process, the information flow was one-way. The Commission allowed Comcast to deny access to program contracts and other necessary information, and did not share details of its numerous closed door meetings with Comcast, he said.
In another such development, Free Press also condemned the Comcast-NBC Universal deal.
"Today's decision by the FCC represents a failure of the agency to live up to its own public interest mandate, as well as Barack Obama's promise to promote media diversity and prevent excessive media concentration," said Josh Silver, president, Free Press, as reported by Broadcasting & Cable.
According to Silver, the deal will give Comcast unprecedented control over both media content and the physical network that delivers it. "The FCC has opened Pandora's (News - Alert) Box, and we can soon expect a whole new swarm of mega-mergers that will have dire consequences for media and the Internet," Silver said.
Want to learn more about how federal regulations are shaping and re-defining communications and information technology? Then be sure to attend the Regulatory 2.0 Workshop, collocated with TMC's (News - Alert) ITEXPO East, taking place Feb 2-4, 2011, in Miami. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski (News - Alert) has pursued the singular goal of ubiquitous broadband access to an open Internet. While some progress has been made, the most difficult decisions are ahead. What's the Commission to do? This program will examine the important issues facing the FCC including net neutrality, inter-carrier compensation and universal service reform, new CALEA legislation, next generation 911, additional spectrum for wireless broadband and the evolving role of state regulation. To register, click here.

Rajani Baburajan is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Rajani's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Janice McDuffee

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