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January 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

After nearly a year of hearings, investigations, and debate, the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice have approved the $30-billion Comcast-NBC Universal merger that puts the largest cable company in the U.S. in control of the weakest major television network. Comcast will own 51 percent of the new entity; NBC’s owner, General Electric (GE), will own the remaining 49 percent. The FCC voted 4-1 to approve the merger, with Commissioner Michael Copps the sole dissenter. He expressed concern that it would concentrate “too much power in one company’s hands.” However, the government imposed conditions on the merger aimed at limiting the power of the merged company, and, in the words of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, ensuring “that competition drives innovation in the emerging online video marketplace.” In particular, Comcast was forced to agree to conditions that will prevent it from using its clout to sabotage online video distributor Hulu, partly owned by NBC. Hulu poses a threat to cable companies since it offers similar content online at lower cost. Comcast has agreed to relinquish its voting rights in Hulu, and it won’t have access to confidential information about Hulu’s business. But in a conference call following the regulators’ announcement, Comcast EVP David Cohen said, “None of the conditions will prevent us from operating these businesses the way our business plans call for us to do so.”