Justice Dept. to review NBC, Comcast deal

DOJ will join FCC in reviewing proposed acquisition

The Justice Dept. will lead the review of the proposed merger of NBC Universal into Comcast.

When the deal was announced last month, there had been question as to which government agency — Justice or the Federal Trade Commission — would sign off on the pact after the two agencies essentially spent recent weeks hashing out which entity was best suited to handle the review. When the merger was announced, it wasn’t immediately clear whether it would land at Justice or the FTC: The Justice Dept. reviewed the News Corp.-DirecTV merger in 2003, but the AOL Time Warner pact went to the FTC in 2000.

The Justice Dept.’s antitrust division is led by Christine Varney, who has indicated stronger scrutiny of consolidation issues than happened during the Bush years.

Nevertheless, after a report this week on TheDeal.com, there’s been speculation that the department will give a go to another proposed merger it is considering, that of Ticketmaster and LiveNation. While many observers expect the NBC Universal and Comcast merger to go through as well, the question will be what conditions regulators place on it for approval.

Moreover, the pact also will still require the clearance of the FCC, and lawmakers on Capitol Hill have pledged to hold hearings on the merger in the coming months.

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