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Justice OKs Viacom Deal

According to several published reports, the Federal Communications Commission is close to approving the $47 billion merger between Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp., with three commissioners ready to sign off on the deal that will create a broadcasting and cable-television powerhouse.

The merger got the go-ahead from the Department of Justice April 26, and both companies said they believe FCC approval is "imminent."

"Viacom and CBS announced today that the United States Department of Justice has notified them that [it] will not oppose the Viacom/CBS merger," Viacom and CBS said in a joint statement. "The companies plan to complete the merger immediately following approval by the Federal Communications Commission, which is expected imminently."

Viacom would not elaborate, but sources said FCC approval could come as early as this week. "That's what I've been hearing," one source familiar with the deal said.

FCC spokesman David Fiske would only say that staff members made a recommendation on the merger, and it was under review. He would not speculate on when the commission will decide.

One sticking point is the FCC's 35 percent cap on nationwide TV-station ownership. The new Viacom would have 41 percent of the market. Viacom said it would do what was needed to comply with regulations.

In addition to cable networks MTV: Music Television, Nickelodeon and VH1, Viacom also owns United Paramount Network.

In a conference call with analysts last week, Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone mentioned published reports that said the FCC gave Viacom one year to shed stations in order to come under the limit. But he added that he believed the FCC rules were unfair and he hoped they would be changed.