Comcast-NBC U merger in slow lane

FCC extends time for public comment

The FCC has extended the period for public comment on the Comcast Corp.-NBC Universal merger, partly in response to pressure from advocacy orgs and pols.

In its order Friday, the FCC said it made the move because Comcast and NBC U have been slow to respond to the commission’s request for additional economic analyses on the impact of the deal, which means the public would have had little time to review those reports before submitting comments and statements of opposition to the merger.

The delay means that the FCC’s review of the merger is unlikely to be completed until fall at the earliest. There are ramifications for both Comcast and General Electric if the merger has not secured regulatory approvals by the one-year anniversary of the agreement.

The FCC had planned to close the comment period May 3, with June 2 as the cutoff for responses and comments to other filings, and June 17 as the deadline for filing replies to those responses. The commission opened the comment period for its review of the merger March 18; Comcast and General Electric reached the $30 billion deal for Comcast to take a 51% stake in NBC U in early December.

Now, the initial comment period will be extended to 45 days after the commission gives notice that Comcast and NBC U have filed the requested reports. The deadline for additional responses will be 30 days after the end of the initial comment period, and 15 days after the end of that period for replies to those responses.

A number of media watchdog groups and consumer orgs had urged the commission to extend the comment period on the complex deal, which will unite the nation’s largest cable operator with a Big Three network, Universal Studios and a strong portfolio of cable channels.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) introduced legislation last week to mandate that the commission extend the comment period. Consumers Union, the Media Access Project, Free Press and the Consumer Federation of America were among the orgs also pushing for the extension.

Comcast said in a statement that it would file the requested reports “as soon as possible” and that it understands the FCC’s need to allow plenty of time for comment as part of the review.

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