Will US regulators balk at Comcast-NBC deal?

December 3, 2009 – In The News
The Christian Science Monitor

The merger of cable giant Comcast with entertainment leader NBC Universal is expected to take nine months to a year for regulatory approval. But already it is raising antitrust concerns about how it will affect the public interest.

Darrell Miller, an entertainment attorney who represents independent directors and producers, expects that the U.S. Justice Department will ultimately approve the deal, but he hopes federal authorities will revisit past deregulation that he says gave a handful of content distributors too much power, forcing production companies either to share ownership of their shows or to never see them air.


Before the advent of cable in the 1990s, broadcast networks were forced to follow federal rules that prevented them from creating the content they aired, which allowed independent producers to sell shows to whomever wanted to purchase them.

The repeal of those rules starting in the 1990s “opened floodgates to allow all kinds of vertical integration,” which included similar deals between Viacom and CBS and between ABC and Disney, says Miller. Those marriages locked up content and distribution under one roof. “In the last 10 years, there has been quite a lot of precedent…and Comcast is just trying to play on that level,” he says.