LA Times Supports Stronger Regulation for NBCU/Comcast Merger

With the negotiations for the Comcast takeover of NBC Universal coming closer to a formal decision, the LA Times urged federal regulators to ensure conditions are placed on the deal to keep the TV services market competitive.

In an editorial published on December 31, the LA Times spoke out in favor of conditions that would "blunt Comcast's ability to impede online entrepreneurs and hinder rival networks."

The Justice Department and FCC, the two bodies in charge of setting conditions on the merger, are posed to complete the nearly year-long merger review process, which would unite two of the nation's largest content producers and content distributors. The merger would create a powerhouse with an imposing presence in broadcasting, cable, and broadband, which could easily edge out smaller cable providers and reshape the landscape of emerging online alternatives to cable.

According to the editorial:

"Under Comcast's control, NBC Universal would have a greater incentive to protect the cable TV business than it would on its own. Once a TV-over-the-Internet service shows that it has the potential to generate considerable profits, an independent NBC would be far more likely to embrace it than one that's under Comcast's wing. The FCC and Justice Department should try to ensure that Comcast's newly purchased networks and Hulu behave the same way they would if they hadn't been taken over by a cable operator."

With a vested interest in protecting cable TV, the new Comcast/NBCU could use its position to undercut rival TV programmers by making it harder for viewers to find or watch its competitors' channels. Yet the Times hopes that firm conditions could bring balance back to the system.

"The Net neutrality rules adopted by the FCC this month prohibit Comcast from making its own content and services more accessible to its broadband customers than Netflix and other competitors. Those rules don't apply to Comcast's cable TV lineup, but the same protections should be in place for rival TV programmers — Comcast shouldn't make it harder for viewers to find or watch its competitors' channels than its own networks. The commission appears poised to impose that condition as well, which would help force Comcast's newly acquired networks to compete for viewers the way they did before the merger — fairly."

Containing Comcast (LA Times)

FCC Passes Net Neutrality Rules (Speed Matters)