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FCC and DoJ Approve Comcast/NBC Merger
January 18, 2011 12:35 PM   Subscribe

The FCC and Department of Justice have approved Comcast’s purchase of NBC Universal. The acquisition marks the first time a major television network will be owned by a cable provider. Opponents like Al Franken decry the deal as giving “unprecedented control over the flow of information in America” to a single media conglomerate. FCC news release about conditions imposed on the merger. (Scribd link)
posted by spitefulcrow (73 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
DAMN YOU CABLE TOWN!
posted by The Whelk at 12:37 PM on January 18, 2011 [18 favorites]


*tosses snowball*
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:38 PM on January 18, 2011


Two shitty tastes taste shittier together.
posted by spitbull at 12:38 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


The KableTown merger was approved? Over Al Franken's objections? I suspect Lorne Michaels is somehow involved.
posted by JMOZ at 12:39 PM on January 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Just watch us now."
posted by blucevalo at 12:40 PM on January 18, 2011


The FCC handing over the net to the likes of Google and Verizon will probably do more damage in the long-term.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:40 PM on January 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


How much you want to bet that they'll do their best to do an end run around these restrictions:
* Offers standalone broadband Internet access services at reasonable prices and of sufficient bandwidth so that customers can access online video services without theneed to purchase a cable television subscription from Comcast.

* Does not enter into agreements to unreasonably restrict online distribution of its own video programming or programming of other providers.

* Does not disadvantage rival online video distribution through its broadband Internetaccess services and/or set-top boxes.

* Does not exercise corporate control over or unreasonably withhold programming from Hulu
...as quickly as possible?
posted by zarq at 12:41 PM on January 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


From 2003:
The Digital Imprimatur: How big brother and big media can put the Internet genie back in the bottle.

Not the first time I've posted that article on MeFi... nor, do I suspect, the last.

I sometimes wonder if people used to think television would be a democratizing force. If so, and if those people were alive today, they'd be on public access.
posted by AugieAugustus at 12:42 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


COMCAST Basic - Over 75 websites! Only 129.99/mo!*

*See terms and conditions for non-COMCAST provider pricing
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:45 PM on January 18, 2011 [12 favorites]


.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 12:48 PM on January 18, 2011


Al Franken = Expert on antitrust law.
posted by stevenstevo at 12:49 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


From the article:
The FCC said the Comcast-NBC Universal combination will be required to take steps to increase competition in the video marketplace. The merger will also require Comcast to expand local news coverage, expand programs for Spanish-speaking viewers and offer Internet access to schools and libraries.
What teeth do these requirements include? Local News is a sad creature, living off the scraps of local interest and "around the world in 80 seconds."

Also, NBC Universal is huge, reading through the current wiki page. It already owns Telemundo, apparently the second largest Spanish-language content producer in the world.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:50 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Al Franken = More of an expert than any other Senator (which is just so sad).
posted by Mick at 12:55 PM on January 18, 2011 [11 favorites]


According to the Center for Responsive Polictics, of the 97 Congresscritters that signed a letter to the Federal Communications Commission urging quick approval of the merger, 84 of them received money from Comcast.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:55 PM on January 18, 2011 [11 favorites]


filthy light thief: "From the article:
The FCC said the Comcast-NBC Universal combination will be required to take steps to increase competition in the video marketplace. The merger will also require Comcast to expand local news coverage, expand programs for Spanish-speaking viewers and offer Internet access to schools and libraries.
What teeth do these requirements include? Local News is a sad creature, living off the scraps of local interest and "around the world in 80 seconds."


Local World News
posted by symbioid at 12:59 PM on January 18, 2011


I was JUST complaining about Comcast having a cable monopoly!
posted by goneill at 1:01 PM on January 18, 2011


If only Comcast weren't literally the only option available to us for broadband.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:03 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sadly, the Sci-Fi Channel will still suck.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:05 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


According to the Center for Responsive Polictics, of the 97 Congresscritters that signed a letter to the Federal Communications Commission urging quick approval of the merger, 84 of them received money from Comcast.

I want to know what the other 13's excuse it.
posted by auto-correct at 1:06 PM on January 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


I want to know what the other 13's excuse it.

They probably own stock in one or the other.
posted by spitefulcrow at 1:07 PM on January 18, 2011


How much you want to bet that they'll do their best to do an end run around these restrictions:

* Offers standalone broadband Internet access services at reasonable prices and of sufficient bandwidth


You could have cut it off right there, zarq. And they already are.
posted by nevercalm at 1:08 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]



Sadly, the Sci-Fi Channel will still suck.


There is no such channel, do you mean the Syfy wrestling channel?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:09 PM on January 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 84 of the 97 received money from Comcast, Public Knowledge said. The amounts range from token contributions of about $1,000 up to $25,100.

That's it? Seems pretty cheap.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:10 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Local News is a sad creature

WPIX-TV - beloved of a generation of New Yorkers for broadcasting The Yule Log and The Magic Garden - recently cut its entire sports, human resources, research, and community affairs departments.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:10 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Dude, spoilers. I was looking forward to the storyline resuming on Thursday.
posted by kafziel at 1:10 PM on January 18, 2011


Hopefully this will be as successful as other vertically integrated media megacorps like Sony and AOL-Time Warner.
posted by ennui.bz at 1:12 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


The only surprise here was the lone dissenting vote. That is truly stunning.
posted by fixedgear at 1:16 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


My sister in law is an executive at Comcast, I'll be making sure to let her know not to cancel 'Community'.

I really feel like this is panic over nothing, one big megacorp with interests in both content distribution and production took over another. I really haven't seen Comcast do that much evil compared to a lot of other corporations. They have had some customer service issues and charge too damn much like any cable company, but I don't see wholesale evil even on a Microsoft scale. Anyone wanna explain why I should be scared?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:17 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


MUST see tv
posted by Babblesort at 1:18 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is no such channel, do you mean the Syfy wrestling channel?
I think you mean the Siffy Pro-Wrestling and Mega-Gator Channel
posted by Thorzdad at 1:19 PM on January 18, 2011


I've never had Verizon cable, but I've had Comcast cable and Internet, and have had Verizon wireless. There's a huge difference between the quality I've seen from those operations, with Verizon coming out miles ahead. I don't see at all why it should be feared more. Comcast is awful. (Those DVRs with the remotes that would only work if you were standing a foot or two away from the machines vs. the ones Dish Network has for a lower rental price ... oh, don't get me started. Then the bundling of Internet and cable, vastly higher rates if you only want Internet. Etc., etc.)
posted by raysmj at 1:20 PM on January 18, 2011


According to the Center for Responsive Polictics, of the 97 Congresscritters that signed a letter to the Federal Communications Commission urging quick approval of the merger, 84 of them received money from Comcast.

proving yet again that Nader was right...
posted by any major dude at 1:27 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


One Comcast to rule them all, one NBC to find them, one Xfinity to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
posted by killdevil at 1:28 PM on January 18, 2011


Joe Beese: " WPIX-TV - beloved of a generation of New Yorkers for broadcasting The Yule Log and The Magic Garden - recently cut its entire sports, human resources, research, and community affairs departments."

They're also looking to change the union rules to eliminate a dedicated camera person during on-location news shoots, the way the non-union stations do.

If you do a shoot with say, New York One News, their on-air anchor is often also the camera person. So they show up on location with their camera, set it up on a tripod and stand in front of it doing the report. That's how reporters work at many small, non-unionized television stations throughout the US. One person does all the sound and video work. If you live in NY, you can see evidence of this in NY1 broadcasts: most on location shoots are static. The camera doesn't move as long as the reporter is in the shot.

But for stations like WPIX or WNYW (Fox 5 in NYC) a cameraperson must accompany the reporter. (They sometimes also have a sound person.) This allows the shoot to take place more quickly, allows for more sophisticated reports, and lets the reporter to focus on what's happening around them if news is unfolding live.

Of course, camera and sound people cost money. So WPIX is looking to cut costs by sacrificing a bit of quality, and hoping their audience won't have a problem with it.
posted by zarq at 1:29 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have a feeling that in ten years this will look as monopolistic as The Pennsylvania Railroad merging with New York Central was in 1968. Broadcast TV has been on the downslope for years and American cable providers started losing subscribers last year for the first time in thirty years and I doubt that's only a temporary trend. This is two dinosaurs banding together trying to stave off the inevitable.
posted by octothorpe at 1:29 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Who's got time for trust-busting? We're too busy trust-building!

Goddamn, but we've got some short memories in this country. It's really frightening.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:32 PM on January 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Only recently, because it took years for other companies (Verizon FIOS) to become competitive, do people in some areas have a choice of cable providers. Yet the price of basic internet service is $50.00/month! With both Comcast and Verizon punishing people who chose not to bundle. Comcast will look at these rates and have to do nothing to comply with "reasonable rates"
posted by Gungho at 1:33 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really haven't seen Comcast do that much evil compared to a lot of other corporations.

Comcast was inserting fake traffic into user's Internet traffic, resetting BitTorrent connections. They were essentially pretending to be the client on the other end of the connection and sending a reset packet saying "terminate the connection".

Anyone wanna explain why I should be scared?

The primary one isn't technological so much as economic. Now that Comcast owns a content company, they have a huge incentive to give that content a priority. This priority could be in several forms: limiting or throttling other content providers, increased placement for their content in user's browsers (for example, adding bookmarks or setting default home page when Comcast technicians install equipment at a user's house), or structuring deals such that small content providers suffer.
posted by formless at 1:33 PM on January 18, 2011 [13 favorites]


Wasn't changing to the digital standard to have allowed stations to create more channels and more content and make more money. Anybody seen new content? All I see is crap re-runs being plugged in to just churn cash. So to, this. Which Americans does this benefit? I will hazard the guess: no one will be better off.

Too bad for America....
posted by zerobyproxy at 1:36 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


In addition to browsers, don't forget most customers now use cable company provided and branded DVRs. You can count down the days until Comcast DVRs start "featuring" NBC content.

But again, the primary concern is how they will filter Internet traffic. This sets up a direct competition between Comcast and small content providers.
posted by formless at 1:39 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, I could do a whole mega-derail about how news divisions are really fighting unions hard. In addition to the little local affiliates and PIX/NYW, ABC (not local, the national network on their marquis news shows) is aggressively moving down this road as well. Not only do they want their location reporting done entirely by one person, they're trying to get their newsroom operations almost totally automated as well.

This is not a good time to work in TV.
posted by nevercalm at 1:46 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sadly, the Sci-Fi Channel will still suck.

SyFy

Imagine Greater


No, I can't make any more fun of it than that.
posted by odinsdream at 1:53 PM on January 18, 2011



Al Franken = Expert on out of control monsters
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 1:54 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, that sucks for everyone, and sucks harder for those that are Comcast users abused food sources.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 1:54 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wasn't changing to the digital standard to have allowed stations to create more channels and more content and make more money. Anybody seen new content?

Infomercials. Wall-to-wall infomercials. That's what the Indianapolis network affiliates seem to do with their extra channels. That and a couple of SuperDoppler9-Gagillion Weather channels.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:03 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I want to know what the other 13's excuse it.

Hookers and blow.

(they may also believers in the "Free Market")
posted by rough ashlar at 2:04 PM on January 18, 2011


Have we learned nothing from AOL-TimeWarner?
posted by nickmark at 2:04 PM on January 18, 2011


The major failure of AOL-TimeWarner was the inability to actually leverage the content they bought and put it all online. If they had actually put that library on AOL it would have been monopolistic, but awesome for the time.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:35 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not to derail, but could internet access in some sense be considered a natural monopoly? I suppose it doesn't fit most of the classic definitions, but still.
posted by digitalprimate at 2:41 PM on January 18, 2011


furiousxgeorge: "The major failure of AOL-TimeWarner was the inability to actually leverage the content they bought and put it all online. If they had actually put that library on AOL it would have been monopolistic, but awesome for the time."

Meanwhile, AOL has quietly been rebranding, reconstructing and building a massive empire for themselves over the last few years. They've founded and acquired a HUGE range of niche websites, from ParentDish to Mapquest to TMZ. The list of sites they own is stunningly long. And nearly all of them generate content.
posted by zarq at 2:46 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


According to the Center for Responsive Polictics, of the 97 Congresscritters that signed a letter to the Federal Communications Commission urging quick approval of the merger, 84 of them received money from Comcast.

Are you trying to say this means there's a causal relationship? DANGER WILL ROBINSON

Turns out that of the 535 members of Congress, the same percentage received money from Comcast whether or not they supported the merger.

(insert rant about lies, damn lies, statistics, etc.)
posted by teraflop at 2:47 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Someday I wonder if there'll be need to have antitrust laws for websites.
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:47 PM on January 18, 2011


odinsdream: "Sadly, the Sci-Fi Channel will still suck."

I'm waiting for someone to found a better rival network, so they can officially become the Wrestling, Ghosts and Shitty Horror Movies channel.
posted by zarq at 2:48 PM on January 18, 2011


Re: AOL, Filthy Light Thief did an excellent FPP (no surprise there of course) on them awhile back.
posted by zarq at 2:50 PM on January 18, 2011


If you really hate the MAN (sorry PERSON) and want to strike a blow for broadcast freedom, dump your cable/satellite subscription, find/steal 4 coat-hangars and some wood scraps, and make yourself a DTV antenna.

Seriously. I did so over a year ago and we now get nearly 20 channels, most in HDTV. It's driving the cable/dish people nuts. If we're in the mood for a movie, we rent.

(and we get internet via DSL for about $35/month via a 3rd party reseller)
posted by Artful Codger at 3:00 PM on January 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


The amounts range from token contributions of about $1,000 up to $25,100.

Funny how a $1000 donation to a single member of Congress could be called 'token.' Really underscores how large corporations are playing a completely different game.
posted by jedicus at 3:17 PM on January 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Related: DSL Reports (covering more than DSL for quite some while now) have maps of local ISPs, AT&T's Uverse (Wiki), Verizon FiOS and FiOS coming soon (Wiki). not exactly coverage maps, but the best I've been able to find (all US-centric, as I think the internet service-side of this decision has the greatest chance to impact US folks).
posted by filthy light thief at 3:18 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've been a happy RCN customer since July 2010. I will never, ever give another penny to Comcast -- but that has been true for a long time.

Here comes the bad news for me: I've been a fan of WWE forever. One of my best-selling games was based on the WWE license, in fact. And all of their shows* in the US are on NBC networks. Now Comcast networks. Ugh.

* OK, WWE Superstars is on WGN America. But that barely qualifies. =)

posted by andreaazure at 3:25 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


FWIW, up here in Canada, CTV used to be owned by telco Bell. (Why am I suddenly hungry for a chalupa?) Now Bell'spretty much sold it off, probably because they found they made more money just by gouging on cellphone plans. Our other major private network, Global, was recently acquired by telco Shaw. We'll see how that goes. Meanwhile, in Quebec, TVA is owned by Quebecor, which also owns telco Videotron. Here in Ontario, we've also got Omni, which is owned by telco Rogers.

On cable, we've got a bunch of channels owned by the above telcos, as well as by Astral Media, which is basically the Canadian version of ClearChannel.

That's hundreds of channels owned by a handful of telcos, all playing the same reruns over and over and over. And a lot of those are Canadian reruns, the cheapest ones available, just to fulfill Canadian Content requirements.

Good luck, America!
posted by Sys Rq at 3:30 PM on January 18, 2011


The amounts range from token contributions of about $1,000 up to $25,100.

jedicus: Funny how a $1000 donation to a single member of Congress could be called 'token.' Really underscores how large corporations are playing a completely different game.

It made me think of the sad story of Tim Quirk, in which he learned that “$10,000 is nothing” to a major record company. If $10,000 is nothing to a record company, $1,000 must have been what fell out of the CEO's pockets when the he sneezed. Sense of scale and all that.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:32 PM on January 18, 2011


find/steal 4 coat-hangars and some wood scraps, and make yourself a DTV antenna.

I actually did this. It's ugly as a hairy butt, but it works better than the $30 fancy indoor/outdoor antenna I got off Amazon. It turns out I get every station but NBC. Gainesville got a shiny new NBC affiliate just before the switchover, only 1.) it's VHF (so the coathanger antenna doesn't work, anyway) and 2.) It's very low wattage and has a null pointed right at Gainesville, so practically no one in the actual city of Gainesville can get Gainesville's NBC affiliate over the air. Since they stream practically everything online, this normally doesn't bother me.
posted by dirigibleman at 4:01 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, somebody's got to buy NBC Universal. It's like a big lump of fatty gristle on the plate-- it has nutritional value, and we're all somewhat hungry now and know we'll be even hungrier in the future--but not yet!...still, we'd hate to see it go to waste--but we're not that hungry, really, thank you, after you. Were you gonna eat it?
posted by eegphalanges at 4:12 PM on January 18, 2011


We have a mass-produced DTV antenna which picks up a grand 6 channels in our po-dunk corner of po-dunk-ville, and some of the content is kind of HD! (It fills our HDTV nicely, but the definition, I do not know if it would qualify for high). Now I'm tempted to "upgrade" to DIY. Either way, it's zero dollars a month, and we can get local news, Jeopardy, and have the internet to fill in the rest, including Netflix streaming SNL soon after it actually airs (though w/o musical guests, which is weird and annoying).
posted by filthy light thief at 4:34 PM on January 18, 2011


I sometimes wonder if people used to think television would be a democratizing force. If so, and if those people were alive today, they'd be on public access.

Someday people will say "I sometimes wonder if people used to think the internet would be a democratizing force. If so, and if those people were alive today, they'd be on 4chan."
posted by ianhattwick at 5:24 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


odinsdream: "Sadly, the Sci-Fi Channel will still suck."

Note, I did not say this, though I do agree with it.
posted by odinsdream at 5:27 PM on January 18, 2011


A telling sign: you don't see network names in torrent files.
posted by furtive at 9:14 PM on January 18, 2011


* Offers standalone broadband Internet access services at reasonable prices and of sufficient bandwidth so that customers can access online video services without theneed to purchase a cable television subscription from Comcast.

* Does not enter into agreements to unreasonably restrict online distribution of its own video programming or programming of other providers.

* Does not disadvantage rival online video distribution through its broadband Internet access services and/or set-top boxes.

* Does not exercise corporate control over or unreasonably withhold programming from Hulu

How does this square with the 250gb per month cap?

The terms of service currently provide that after one month exceeding the cap, Comcast issues a warning. Exceed it again and you are banned for one year from the broadband service.

Sadly, Comcast is the only viable broadband choice in my area. With streaming netflicks and 2 game purchases from Steam this month, I am standing north of 120gb on the 19th of January.

With broadband usage increasing, I can see where the monthly cap is likely to impact the choices I make in how I use my connection. This will not tend to favor content providers other than Comcast. In effect, Comcast is going to try to get me to stop streaming and sign up for their cable programming.

Will these protections actually help me?
posted by mygoditsbob at 5:44 AM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh hey a new email from Comcast, it seems that NBC requested my IP address because I supposedly downloaded a torrent of 30 Rock. Welp, time to go to court.
posted by d1rge at 9:20 AM on January 19, 2011


Keith Olbermann has left MSNBC.
posted by ofthestrait at 6:19 PM on January 21, 2011


Something like that. Olbermann's take: "MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract."

Make of that what you will.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:20 PM on January 21, 2011


I'd like to know when exactly was the golden age where we had a lot of choice about broadcast entities.

/sarcasm
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:07 AM on February 1, 2011


I'd like to know when exactly was the golden age where we had a lot of choice about broadcast entities.

You kid, but before cable, in addition to network affiliates, there were a lot of independent local stations.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:21 PM on February 1, 2011


You kid, but before cable, in addition to network affiliates, there were a lot of independent local stations.

I'm not kidding. The choices were more limited than you think. Original content costs money. Local stations never wanted to spend money, so the original content was thin to the point of being irrelevant.

I grew up in Los Angeles, so let's look at the list your link provided.

KTLA (Channel 5) -- Angels games and syndicated shows and network re-runs.
KHJ-TV/KCAL-TV (Channel 9) -- Lakers games and syndicated shows and network re-runs. I think they had the NHL's Kings, too.
KTTV (Channel 11) -- Dodgers games and syndicated shows and network re-runs.
KCOP (Channel 13) -- Syndicated shows and network re-runs. Star Trek!
KWHY-TV -- Spanish broadcasting, so I didn't watch it.
KDOC-TV -- Wally George. 'Nuff said.

Channels 2, 4 and 7 were CBS, NBC and ABC, respectively. There weren't Channels 6, 8 and 10 that I recall. Channels 1 and 3 were null entries on the dial.

The syndicated shows were largely daytime talk -- Mike Douglas, Phil Donahue, etc. Really, the only thing original these stations brought to the table were half-hour local news, which was a pick-em offering (the inspiration for Ron Burgundy, and Channel 13 had a local crank on TV for, like, 100 years).

It wasn't good. Unless you wanted to watch What's Happening ad infinitum. ;-)
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:08 PM on February 1, 2011


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