PHILADELPHIA — The Federal Communications Commission gave the green light on Tuesday to Comcast Corp.’s proposed $30 billion deal to acquire a controlling stake in content giant NBC Universal Inc., a transaction that critics say could drive up costs for consumers but one that Comcast has said could lead to more innovation in how people watch news and entertainment.
The deal comes as Comcast has lost more than one million cable-TV subscribers in recent years because of unprecedented competition from satellite pay-TV companies, online media and telephone companies offering pay-TV packages.
Comcast – which also needs approval by the Department of Justice, which also could come today – will acquire a 51 percent stake in NBCU from General Electric, with the option to eventually buy full control.
Among other things, the government is requiring Comcast to make NBC programming available to rival cable companies, satellite operators and new Internet video services that could pose a threat to Comcast’s core cable business.
The FCC voted 4-1 Tuesday, with Commissioner Michael Copps opposing the deal.
“We are looking at a media world that is changing radically and Comcast is trying to stay ahead of it,” said John Dunbar, director of the media and broadband project at the investigative reporting workshop at American University in Washington.
“This is an extraordinary development. It’s a new kind of media consolidation and it will bring with it, its own set of risks, concerns and dangers,” said Dunbar, who recently published an article on the Comcast-NBCU deal in the Columbia Journalism Review. “Nothing like this kind of combination has happened before.”