Comcast-NBC deal draws more criticism

Under the deal, Comcast will acquire NBC Universal, which is valued at $30 billion, to own a 51 percent stake in the combined company.

If allowed to merge, the companies pledged to continue broadcasting free over-the-air television on NBC and Telemundo networks. Comcast said it would add new, independently owned channels to its cable line-up. The company said the content of NBC's news and public affairs programming would not be influenced the parent company's interests.

But consumer advocates call those commitments "laughable."

"They're essentially saying, 'We voluntarily agree to abide by the law,'" said Joel Kelsey, policy counsel at Consumers Union. "Those are concessions?"

Jeff Chester, who runs the Center for Digital Democracy, called the commitments "pathetic."

"Comcast’s memo today says nothing on the key, and crucial, issue of network neutrality and online programming access," he said. "Nor are there any safeguards for privacy and interactive ads, meaningful concrete funding commitments for local and national news, and support for truly diverse (non-Comcast/NBCU owned) minority programming."

Free Press, Public Knowledge and Media Access Project have been fighting hard against the deal before it was even announced.

The FCC, as well as either the Federal Trade Commission or DoJ, will have to approve the deal and could impose its own concessions (although the FCC's ability to do so is more limited). The review could take a year or longer to complete.

Update (5:55 p.m.): House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers said he will soon hold hearings on the proposed merger. 

The merger "between the country's oldest broadcast network and it's largest cable operator would create a global entertainment company combining content creation and distribution at an unprecendented scale," he said. "A merger of this magnitude involves a complex regulatory process and heavy public scrutiny. The Committee will consider the benefits of potential advances in content delivery and the impact on consumers."