Comcast Should Receive Conditions on NBC Universal Purchase, Waxman Says

U.S. regulators should impose conditions before approving Comcast Corp.’s proposed purchase of General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal unit, a lawmaker said.

The merger “could trigger significant changes in the way consumers access video programming,” Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat who is chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said today in a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski.

The FCC and Justice Department are reviewing the purchase announced more than a year ago. It would give Comcast, the largest U.S. cable company, control of the NBC television network, broadcast stations, cable channels such as MSNBC and USA Network and a share of the online site Hulu LLC.

Regulators should ensure competitors have access to Comcast-owned programming, and the combined entity shouldn’t be allowed to favor its online offerings by degrading or blocking competing Web offerings, Waxman said. He said Comcast shouldn’t be able to assign competitors to channels that are isolated from its own similar fare, and should be required to ensure the merger benefits independent program producers.

Jen Howard, an FCC spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Philadelphia-based Comcast is working with regulatory agencies on the issues Waxman identified, Sena Fitzmaurice, a Comcast spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

“This deal will bring significant benefits for consumers, independent programmers, and diversity groups, and the sooner approvals are concluded, the sooner these benefits will be seen in the marketplace,” she said.

Waxman said he hoped regulatory review concludes “ideally by the end of the year, if possible.”

Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, has filed papers opposing the Comcast-NBC Universal combination as it is currently proposed.

To contact the reporter on this story: Todd Shields in Washington at tshields3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Allan Holmes at aholmes25@bloomberg.net

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