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Good News for Kabletown: U.S. OK's Comcast-NBC Merger

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Comcast has federal approval to combine with NBC, after the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department both approved the deal this afternoon. Besides providing clarity for 30 Rock storylines going forward, the decision makes possible the first acquisition of a major broadcast network by a cable company. (TIME’s parent, Time Warner, owned a cable company and broadcast and cable properties before it spun off Time Warner Cable.)

One of the principal concerns over the deal was how giving a cable company control over NBC Universal’s network and cable properties could give it unfair leverage as the business of distributing TV shows grows complicated and competitive. Online distribution outlets like Netflix, for instance, pose a potential threat to Comcast’s cable business, while the likes of Hulu (in which NBC owns a stake) could conflict with Comcast’s online-distribution interests.

In response to these concerns—some articulated by dissenting commissioner Michael Copps—the FCC attached a list of conditions to its approval. Among them: that Comcast allow access to its distribution systems to competitors; that it enable broadband customers to access online video services without a Comcast cable subscription; that NBC offer content to online services that have struck a deal for a competitor’s content; and that Comcast not “exercise corporate control over or unreasonably withhold programming from Hulu.”

The joint venture is expected to be finalized around the end of the month. Tina Fey, you are on notice!