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Waters Rips Into FCC, Calls Comcast/NBCU Order 'Meaningless'

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), one of the stronger critics of the now-approved Comcast/NBCU joint venture, said that after vetting the 279-page FCC order, she has concluded that both the FCC and Justice department failed to craft "substantive conditions," and called the FCC order "meaningless.

In a statement released Tuesday, Waters said that there was nothing in the FCC conditions that Comcast had not already promised to do or offer up as public interest commitments themselves. She also pointed out that the network neutrality conditions were taken from the FCC just-passed rules, which she called a "narrowly tailored compromise with the telecommunications industry that excludes mobile wireless companies."

Waters doesn't think much of those commitments, either. "I do not believe the American public can have much confidence in Comcast-NBCU's commitment to launch 10 new independent channels when current networks have had so many challenges negotiating reasonable carriage terms with the cable giant.  And while discount broadband, "limited-time" special offers, and philanthropic endeavors are commendable efforts we strongly encourage the private sector to embrace, they are irrelevant to promoting diversity among broadcast viewpoints and FCC license holders," she said.

And while she gave Justice a shout-out for its review, which she said can ease some of her concerns, she said the FCC was obligated to conduct a more "comprehensive" public interest standard. Justice is concerned with anti-trust issues, while the FCC goes beyond competition issues to whether a deal promotes the public interest. But the FCC and Justice worked closely to fashion their respective conditions, according to multiple sources.

Waters said that she did not think public input on the deal translated to FCC action. "Unfortunately, despite the amount of public participation and input in the Commission's proceedings, it does not appear that the depth of analysis was reflected in the prescribed final conditions," she said, adding that she did not see it providing much help to those waiting for the FCC to act on carriage or access complaints against Comcast.

She suggested the order would not improve with age. "Since no divestitures, separation of corporate authority, or any other stringent conditions were attached to the acquisition," Waters said, "the FCC's 279-page order approving the Comcast-NBCU merger will be even more meaningless than it is today."

Comcast pointed ot the multiple statements of support for the deal, including from Waters' colleague Rep. Hank Johnson, ranking member on the House Competition subcommittee, as well as from the Directors Guild, the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza and many more.

NBC has said the deal will officially close Friday (Jan. 28).