Despite critics' concerns, FCC OK's Comcast-NBCU merger; Justice also gives nod

Despite opposition from critics ranging from non-profit public policy groups to competitors in its own industry, the Federal Communications Commission today approved Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal, a move that creates a powerful media company like none other in the United States, combining content generation and programming as well as distribution channels across the airwaves, over the Internet and on cable across the nation. The FCC, as anticipated, approved the merger in a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Michael Copps casting the lone dissenting vote.

The deal also has been approved by the Justice Department.

The approval comes with a number of caveats from the commission including provisions that make Comcast guarantee competitors access to its broadcast, cable and online content under the general description of net neutrality, which Comcast already has said it could tolerate.

Critics, however, panned the approval, saying "free expression online and on television will be worse off as a result of today's action."

"Commissioner Copps was right to dissent, since the conditions adopted by the Commission do not go far enough to justify approval of this deal," said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, SVP and policy director of the non-profit Media Access Project. "Perhaps the worst thing about today's announcement is that it sends a message to other phone and cable companies that they, too, can buy up content providers. We may be about to see a new wave of media consolidation as a result."