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Sen. Kohl wants tough conditions on Comcast-NBC Universal deal

May 26, 2010 |  9:42 am

Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), chairman of the powerful Senate antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights subcommittee, told the Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission that he wants strong conditions on the proposed merger between cable giant Comcast Corp. and entertainment behemoth NBC Universal.

KOHL Among the 11 conditions Kohl is asking for is that Comcast divest NBC's interest in the online video site Hulu, which also counts among its owners Walt Disney Co. and News Corp. Kohl has expressed concern that Comcast will try to keep content it owns off of Internet sites that it does not control and also require that to see content online, consumers must also subscribe to Comcast's cable service.

Kohl also wants a requirement that would prohibit NBC from moving any of its broadcast shows to a cable network that Comcast has a stake in for 10 years. In other words, if NBC found a new home for "Law & Order," but it was on a network that Comcast had ownership in, then that would be a no-no. While such a move is designed in principle to protect NBC's broadcast network, some shows move to cable from broadcast as opposed to being canceled outright.

Looking to protect competing cable and satellite services, Kohl also wants conditions that would insure that Comcast and NBC not be able to leverage its "must-have programming to raise its rivals' costs."

Besides having Comcast divest from Hulu, which is already considering going to a pay model, Kohl wants assurances that Comcast will not try to "prevent or coerce programmers from keeping their content off Internet websites or Internet distributors as a condition of carriage on Comcast."

The review of the Comcast-NBC deal is expected to take several more months. Last week, the FCC sent both companies a list of detailed questions probing the business practices and strategies of the two companies.

-- Joe Flint

Related posts: FCC digging deep in review of Comcast-NBC deal.

Photo: U.S Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.). Credit: U.S. Congress.