Comcast, NBC promise to keep news, free TV

Thu Jan 28, 2010 3:55pm EST
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Cable giant Comcast and NBC Universal said on Thursday they would continue reporting news, keep broadcast television free and offer more children's programing if the U.S. government approves Comcast's plan to take control of the TV and movie company.

But the filings, which were submitted to the Federal Communications Commission, did little to immediately allay critics of the deal, who were concerned about Comcast's control of NBC's television shows and movies in cable, television and on the Internet.

They dismissed pledges by Comcast, which plans to buy a majority stake in NBC Universal from General Electric, to offer an additional hour of children's programing each week using multicast channels of NBC owned-and-operated affiliates, and lengthen the amount of time that ratings information appears at commercial breaks.

The top U.S. cable provider also urged the FCC not to condition the deal to take into account online video distribution.

"It would be inappropriate for the Commission to impose any conditions on the transaction based on the possibility that online video distributors might one day emerge as direct competitors to Comcast's terrestrial cable business," the Comcast/NBC Universal filing said.

Comcast is the No.1 U.S. residential Internet service provider and NBC owns a third of, the most popular U.S. website for viewing TV shows.

The public interest group Public Knowledge disagreed vehemently with Comcast's argument.

"We are incredulous that Comcast and NBCU would downplay Internet distribution of video at a time when the FCC has repeatedly identified online video as one of the primary drivers to broadband adoption," said Harold Feld, legal director of Public Knowledge in an email statement.

"The commission must make certain competitors will have access to Comcast and NBC programing as the online market evolves," said Feld.   Continued...