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Smith Expects Lots of Conditions on Comcast-NBCU Deal

National Association of Broadcasters has taken no position on the Comcast-NBC Universal merger, but NAB President Gordon Smith said Jan. 22 that he expected the Obama administration will put “lots of caveats and conditions” on the deal. But he added they “will not make a discernible difference in terms of how it translates from NBC to its affiliates in relationship to cable.”

That came in an interview on C-SPAN’s Communicators series in which I spoke with Smith about spectrum reclamation, indecency and the Supreme Court decision on campaign finance. (To watch a video of the interview, click here.)Some of the NAB’s members have expressed concern about the deal. Asked what that concern was, Smith responded: “If you own a station in Medford, Ore., and the potential exists that NBC could just program around your local station, you can be concerned about that.”

But he said that networks and affiliates need each other. “My assumption is that NBC does continue to care about its local affiliates…. I think that is in the interests of the Peacock to continue to work out an arrangement, even if it is owned by a cable company that will preserve those essential features of what we think of as localism and broadcasting.”

Congress can be expected to make its feelings on conditions and concerns known at two upcoming House and Senate hearings on the deal, both scheduled for Feb. 4.

Comcast is planning to make its own public interest pitch to the FCC by the end of next week.