How NBC-Comcast leads to more government regulation

January 24, 2011: 1:18 PM ET

The perverse impact of deregulation is  that the FCC would be less involved with the media industry if it simply had said "no deal" to the Comcast-NBC merger.

Seal of the United States Federal Communicatio...

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By Dan Mitchell, contributor

Later this week -- January 28th -- will be the first official day that Comcast is in control of the operations of NBC Universal. But as is turns out, it's not the only one sitting in the driver's seat: The government's approval of Comcast's merger with NBC Universal will yield far more governmental intrusion in the marketplace than if the combination had simply been disallowed.

That might seem counterintuitive – banning a merger is pretty intrusive, after all. But this agreement is far moreso: it makes the government a micromanager of media deals. It even goes so far as to force Comcast to sell its content to outside distributors if certain conditions apply.

Hardcore laissez faire types might prefer that the government had just stayed out of the deal entirely, but that would have certainly left us with the nation's biggest cable provider and one of its biggest content creators independently  determining who can create and distribute what content, and who can have access to it.

Yet despite the FCC's caveats, that danger still lurks. All kinds of bad things can happen when the owner of content also owns the means by which that content is distributed. The best outcome for everybody except Comcast (CMCSA) and NBC (except for former corporate parent General Electric (GE) ) would have been if the FCC or the Justice Department had simply nixed the deal to begin with. More

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