The Federal Communications Commission has voted 4-1 in favour of the Comcast-NBC Universal merger.
The deal to create the media behemoth is subject to approval by the Justice Department. Democratic commissioner Michael Copps was the sole dissenting voice.
The regulator will announce details of conditions shortly as media watchers have expressed grave concerns over antitrust implications.
Comcast takes a 51% stake in NBC Universal from General Electric, which is divesting itself of its media assets to focus on industrial applications. The cost of the stake is valued at $13.8m according to reports.
The Writers Guild opposed the merger, saying in a statement: “The Writers Guild Of America, East is disappointed by the FCC’s approval of the joint venture between Comcast and NBC Universal. We consistently have opposed this action because entertainment and news media already are too consolidated; too few multinational mega-corporations control what people watch on television and in movie theaters.
“The Comcast/NBCU deal is particularly frightening because it brings together one of the largest internet service and cable TV providers with one of the largest content providers. Without strong and meaningful safeguards, the economics of the deal virtually mandate that Comcast/NBCU will discriminate in favor of its own content and leave writers and other independent members of the creative community out in the cold.”
However the Independent Film & Television Alliance was more optimistic. In a statement president-CEO Jean Prewitt said: “Despite our ongoing concern about the effects of industry-wide consolidation, we are satisfied that the FCC and the DOJ have acted responsibly in their approval today of the Comcast-NBC Universal merger, recognising the significant commitments that the parties have already made to meet public and private concerns about the impact of this transaction.
“The closing of the joint venture triggers the July 12, 2010, agreement between the Independent Film and Television Alliance and Comcast-NBCU, which will provide real opportunities for independent producers on the Comcast and NBC platforms, and increase the public’s access to diverse programming.
“In force for four years, the agreement includes increased development and pitch opportunities, a development fund devoted to independents and greater access to Comcast’s new media platforms. We hope that this agreement can be a model that can be implemented across the industry.”