The Federal Trade Commission has approved the controversial sale of a majority share of NBC Universal by General Electric to Comcast, leaving only Justice Department approval for a deal that could define the changing landscape of national power. (Update, it’s all approved now, by the Justice Dept. as well.) Critics used to call into question the relationship between NBC, a leading provider of news and analysis regarding current events, and its owners General Electric, a leading provider of big weapons that made those current events go boom.
Now we live in a different world, a post-Cold War information age. Power used to hinge in large part over who had the biggest bomb stockpile. In the future it may be a question of whose voice and content gets delivered through the tubes. If this deal goes through, the many tubes that belong to Comcast will have a vested interest in getting NBC content to customers fast. Other content, not as much. Into that breach may come legislation. The openness of the Web will be hotly debated.
Brian Stetler and Tim Arango of The New York Times have the most detailed, yet accessible, media industry insider’s coverage.
They excerpt the following from the public statement of the one dissenter in the four to one FCC vote to approve the deal, senior Democratic commissioner, Michael J. Copps.
“[It] confers too much power in one company’s hands…The Comcast-NBCU joint venture opens the door to the cable-ization of the open Internet. The potential for walled gardens, toll booths, content prioritization, access fees to reach end users, and a stake in the heart of independent content production is now very real.”
The FCC has imposed a list of conditions on the deal that are intended to prevent that from happening, as well as compensate society for our trouble through steps like providing increased connectivity to underserved communities and more Spanish language programming. It seems like an interesting admission that this deal is risky for the interests of the rest of us that these kinds of conditions are included!
What do you think about the Telecom Industrial Complex buying the old peacock?