NBC and Comcast paint it black when it comes to FCC questions


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Anyone looking to get some good dirt out of the responses that NBC Universal and Comcast Corp. gave to the Federal Communications Commission about how their two companies operate is out of luck. Last month, the FCC sent Comcast and NBC Universal dozens of questions seeking very detailed and in many cases confidential information about their businesses and partnerships. It’s all part of the regulatory agency’s review of Comcast’s proposed takeover of General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal. Both the FCC and the Justice Department have to sign off on the deal before it can close.

Although the companies spilled the beans to the FCC, anyone else looking to find the secrets to their success has been left in the dark. That’s because the documents the two companies filed at the commission have blacked out all the juicy stuff.


For example, above right is NBC’s answer to the question ‘Describe in detail all discussions, deliberations, analysis, and decisions related to the possibility of Hulu charging a monthly fee to access content on their website.’ The details are there, but not for our eyes.

The FCC won’t be the only one who gets to look at the answers. Competitors who can make a case to the agency that they need to see the answers to assess what the Comcast-NBC merger will mean for their businesses have to sign protective orders and confidential agreements. In other words, you can only look if you promise not to leak.

-- Joe Flint