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Comcast reaches peace accord with CBS, ABC and Fox stations

July 2, 2010 |  8:28 am

Comcast Corp. told the Federal Communications Commission it has reached an agreement with television stations owned by Fox, CBS and ABC that it hopes will ease concerns about the cable company's proposed marriage with NBC Universal.

Local stations, particularly those owned by rivals of NBC and its affiliates have expressed concern about being at a disadvantage if Comcast, the nation's biggest cable operator owns NBC.

The big concern is what a Comcast-NBC merger would mean when it comes to negotiating deals to carry stations of rival networks on Comcast cable systems. Comcast pledged it would engage in good-faith negotiations and "not discriminate in its retransmission consent negotiations with the non-NBCU Stations on the basis of affiliation (or lack thereof) with Comcast or the NBC or Telemundo Television Networks."

Interestingly, at the same time television station owners want Comcast to agree to conditions on so-called retransmission consent negotiations; the broadcast industry is telling the FCC that it does not need to regulate this area of the industry. In other words, TV stations want the FCC to put conditions about retransmission consent into any approval of the Comcast-NBC deal while at the same time does not want the FCC to exercise any regulatory muscle over retransmission consent.

There have been several big fights between broadcasters and cable operators over the last year over retransmission consent including one between Time Warner Cable and Fox and another between Cablevision and Walt Disney Co.'s ABC. Later this summer, Time Warner Cable is expected to face off in a testy battle with ABC as well.

Just how much teeth any of these agreements Comcast has reached with television station owners and others concerned about the effect the merger will have on the rest of the media industry remains to be seen. One television industry publication, TV NewsCheck, argues it is a lot of lip service that won't hold up once the deal closes.

-- Joe Flint