WASHINGTON -- According to press reports on Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission announced its decision, by a vote of 4-1, to approve the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal, one of the largest media mergers in history. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Commissioners Mignon Clyburn, Meredith Attwell Baker and Robert McDowell voted for the merger, while Commissioner Michael Copps dissented.
Tuesday's vote will allow Comcast, the nation's largest cable and residential broadband provider, to take control of NBC Universal, a major content provider and the owner of national English- and Spanish-language broadcast networks, more than two dozen local TV stations, numerous cable news and entertainment channels, and movie studios. With the FCC's blessing, Comcast-NBC will now control one in every five television viewing hours.
The FCC endorsed the deal despite pledges by Barack Obama during the last presidential campaign to oppose greater media consolidation. In June 2008, President Obama said, "I strongly favor diversity of ownership of outlets and protection against the excessive concentration of power in the hands of any one corporation, interest or small group. I strongly believe that all citizens should be able to receive information from the broadest range of sources. I feel that media consolidation during the Bush administration has had the effect of eliminating a lot of the diversity of information sources available to persons who have to rely on more traditional information sources, such as radio and television broadcasts and newspapers."
Free Press President and CEO Josh Silver made the following statement:
"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. This deal will give Comcast unprecedented control over both media content and the physical network that delivers it. The FCC has opened Pandora's Box, and we can soon expect a whole new swarm of mega-mergers that will have dire consequences for media and the Internet.
"Such power concentrated in the hands of a single company is deeply troubling. Access to information from a variety of independent sources is essential to an informed citizenry and a functioning democracy. While the FCC has adopted conditions, they are insufficient short-term or voluntary fixes that will fail to prevent permanent harm to competition, consumer choice and the future of the Internet. This deal will drive up cable and Internet costs for subscribers, while further eliminating diverse, independent media content that is already woefully lacking in the commercial media.
"We applaud Commissioner Michael Copps for taking a principled stand and refusing to sign off on this disastrous deal. But the approval of this merger represents yet another failure of the Obama administration to live up to the president's promises to protect against media consolidation and ensure access to a broad range of diverse sources of news and information. Apparently, such promises aren't worth much in the face of Comcast's army of lobbyists, PR shops and generous campaign contributions. Today, Comcast has won the jackpot, and once again, it is the American people who will end up paying out."