Does Comcast Merger Approval Impose Fairness Doctrine Workaround and Promote Other Shenanigans?

by Mike Wendy on January 18, 2011

Today the FCC approved the merger of Comcast and NBC-U.

As the details beyond the press release emerge, I am struck immediately by this “voluntary” concession made by the merging parties to the Government:

Localism. To further broadcast localism, Comcast-NBCU will maintain at least the current level of news and information programming on NBC’s and Telemundo’s owned-and-operated (“O&O”) broadcast stations, and in some cases expand news and other local content.  NBC and Telemundo O&O stations also will provide thousands of additional hours of local news and information programming to their viewers, and some of its NBC stations will enter into cooperative arrangements with locally focused nonprofit news organizations.  Additional free, on-demand local programming will be made available as well. (Emphasis added)

My quick queries:

  • Is this a “hidden” attempt by the Administration to impose a Fairness Doctrine-like requirement on those NBC stations.
  • Will conservative voices be allowed to be any of those nonprofit news organizations, or has the (non-conservative) list already be drawn up and agreed to?
  • Which stations and in what markets does it affect (such as outlets in key electoral battlegrounds as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Miami, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Detroit, Houston, Denver, Portland, Seattle)?
  • What kind of programming obligations will those stations be held to?  Or, stated more directly, can the non-profits have a pro (any) Administration leaning and advocacy?
  • Who will provide oversight as to any editorial abuses?

I probably shouldn’t be asking such un-PC questions.  But, the purposely oblique Consent Decree process – which Comcast, NBC-U, the DoJ and the FCC just labored through – makes me fear the worst.

And this is it – did the FCC extract a “voluntary” agreement that, in regard to broadcast localism, achieves what it could not otherwise through rule or law?  Or, stated differently, will the agreement promote viewpoint-neutral content of general use to viewers, or will it be used as yet another government-funded vehicle to promote liberal causes and advocacy?

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