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Comcast-NBC merger gains traction

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On Internet television obligations, the senior FCC officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the decision is not yet final, said that the agency would not try tocreate industry-wide regulation through the merger and that conditions should apply directly to the business deal. The officials would not give details on conditions negotiated in the deal.

Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee that oversees antitrust issues, said Comcast and NBC should divest their stake in the online video site Hulu to ensure that Comcast does not have too much influence online. Analysts say that isn't expected to happen but that regulators might require limits to Comcast's operational role over the Web company.

The merged company may also be required to share NBC content with Internet companies, such as YouTube and Roku, if other networks, such as CBS and Walt Disney, are doing so.

The Justice Department, meanwhile, is investigating whether the merger harms competition in television and cable markets as well as newly developing industries online.

A source familiar with the antitrust agency's thinking said regulators aren't quite ready to issue a consent decree of approval. The source said the agency is working on language that would ensure the company's commitment to avoid using its dominant power to hurt new competitors.

The agency will also look into conditions that prohibit "anti-retaliatory" moves, much as it did in the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation. In that deal, the department said the new company couldn't retaliate against any venue owner that chooses to use another company's ticketing services or promotional services.

In the Comcast-NBC deal, analysts said that would mean the merged company could not punish business partners who do business with Comcast's or NBC's competitors.


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