Jan 28, 2010

Comcast, GE and NBC Universal File Public Interest Statement with FCC

Today, Comcast and GE have filed our Applications for Transfer of Licenses and Public Interest Statement with the FCC, which is the next step in the process of our transaction to create a joint venture for NBC Universal. Earlier this week, we filed our Hart-Scott-Rodino notification with the Department of Justice. These two requests for review begin the formal regulatory approval process for this transaction.

Since we made our official announcement to form the joint venture on December 3rd, we have explained that the transaction is pro-consumer, pro-competition, and strongly in the public interest. Our filing today comprehensively reviews the transaction’s specific public interest benefits and how they meet the FCC’s cornerstone interests of diversity, localism, competition, and innovation. By bringing together NBC’s high-quality content with the technology and innovation of Comcast’s technology platform, the new venture will increase the amount, quality, variety, and availability of content more than either company could on its own, which will promote diversity. The new venture will also provide more and better local programming, including local news and information programming, advancing localism. The transaction will spur other content producers and distributors to improve their own services, enhancing competition. Our experimentation with new business models and distribution platforms to better serve consumers will promote innovation.

In our December announcement, we made an unprecedented number of public interest commitments designed to enhance and ensure the strong public interest benefits of the transaction. Our Public Interest Statement expands on these commitments and offers additional details, including the following:

  • For three years, the NBC O&Os will provide at least the same amount of local news and information programming as today – and will not cut the amount of news programming.

  • A commitment to provide an additional 1,000 hours of local news and information programming by the NBC O&Os.

  • An additional 1,500 programming choices for children and families within three years on VOD.

  • An additional hour of children’s programming each week (above the current three-hour requirement) using multicast channels of NBC O&Os.

  • Tripling the amount of time that program ratings information appears on the screen, from 5 to 15 seconds at each commercial break, and enlarging the information box.

  • Launching a new over-the-air multicast channel using Telemundo’s programming library.

  • Increasing Telemundo and Mun2 VOD programming by up to 300 additional choices within three years.

  • Ensuring that the two new independently owned and operated cable networks we have committed to add to our digital line-up each year for the next three years are truly independent – i.e., networks that are not currently carried by Comcast Cable, and are not affiliated with Comcast, NBCU, or any of the top 15 owners of cable networks as measured by revenues.

  • A continued reaffirmation of our commitment to keep NBC as a free-over-the air broadcaster with a workable business model in the evolving economic and technological environment.

The Public Interest Statement details the intensely competitive environment in which NBCU and Comcast operate. In the content market, Comcast today has just a 3% share, and NBCU only 9%, so the new NBCU accounts for only about 12% of overall national cable network advertising and affiliate revenues. Today, NBC is the 4th largest owner of national cable networks, and even after the transaction, the new NBCU will still rank as 4th largest owner of national cable networks, behind Disney/ABC, Time Warner, and Viacom. After the transaction closes, 6 of every 7 channels carried by Comcast Cable will be unaffiliated with Comcast or the new NBCU.

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The Public Interest Statement demonstrates that the new combination will not result in the violation of any provisions of the Communications Act, or other applicable statutes or the Commission’s rules, and reviews the already comprehensive regulatory structures in place to assuage any concerns specific to competition in the industry, including program access, program carriage, and retransmission consent rules. And of course, there’s an established body of antitrust law that governs the conduct of all businesses.

With this filing, we initiate what we hope will be a constructive dialogue with the FCC and interested stakeholders, including the general public. Consistent with Commission rules and past practice, this conversation should be limited to legitimate merger-specific issues. As the Commission has said in the past, a transaction review process is not the appropriate forum to air general industry issues or to ventilate imagined or contrived grievances. We are looking forward to a thorough — and expeditious — regulatory review of this transaction, and to working with the Commission, the DOJ, Congress, and other interested parties for a successful completion of this important venture.

Tags : Comcast, FCC, GE, Public Interest Statement

 
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