Comcast, NBC U extend comments period

Critics want more time to pore over merger material

Comcast Corp. said it has no problem with a request to extend by two weeks the FCC comment period for critics of its proposed joint venture with NBC Universal.

A number of orgs, including the American Cable Assn. and the Fair Access to Content & Telecommunications Coalition, asked for more time to review the trove of information in the nearly 600 pages that Comcast and NBC U filed last week in defense of their transaction. Their request, if approved by the FCC, would place the next comment deadline at Aug. 19.

Even so, that would not mean the FCC would “stop the clock” in the review of the deal.

A Comcast exec said they believe the deal is on track to close by the end of the year, with expectations that the FCC and Department of Justice will complete their reviews in the same time frame.

The source said regulators have not yet approached Comcast or NBC U to talk about conditions on the deal, although executives have given depositions as part of the review.

Some of the major concerns raised in congressional hearings involve the transaction’s impact on the market for Web video as well as on competitors’ ability to gain carriage on Comcast systems or access to Comcast and NBC U’s cable channels.

Comcast and NBC U made a number of public interest commitments when its transaction was announced in December. Since then, it has added additional commitments, including separate ones with NBC’s affiliates and the Independent Film & Television Alliance.

The companies also have made a series of commitments with Hispanic and African-American groups to increase its diversity efforts, including ones to add channels where minorities own a majority of the equity.

The Comcast source said the company is also in ongoing discussions with the NAACP and Operation PUSH regarding the joint venture.

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