On Thursday, Comcast cleared what may be the most important hurdle in its ongoing efforts to acquire NBC Universal. Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is moving to approve Comcast’s proposed merger, effectively putting the deal up for vote before the entire body.

The announcement comes as the FCC winds down its review of a large and controversial proposed merger that has raised widespread concern about everything from media ownership to broadcast television programming.

The estimated timeline for the merger’s implementation is now projected to be early 2011. At present, the Justice Department has yet to complete its official review and investigation into the deal – although a court challenge is not anticipated.

However, according to the Washington Post, Senior FCC officials confirm that an approval of the proposed merger would, in fact, be “conditional.” Specifics were not given with regard to the specific “conditions,” although general obligations would be Comcast’s responsibility – such as allowing consumers to view and access NBC programming from Comcast competitors – including those that dwell exclusively online. The conditions vaguely alluded to are still subject to change, as Genachowski has yet to confer with his four commissioner colleagues, regarding his draft order for the merger’s approval.

Shortly after Genachowski’s announcement on Thursday,  Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen issued a statement noting the following:

“The FCC and Department of Justice have made substantial progress toward approval of the Comcast-GE transaction relating to NBC Universal. We are gratified that the FCC Chairman’s Office has circulated an order to the offices of all commissioners that would lead to approval of our transaction.”

Thursday’s promising developments for the proposed Comcast-NBC deal come after months of suspenseful reviews rife with politics and the strong arm tactics of would-be opponents to the merger’s authorization. According to the FCC, officials have conferred with countless stakeholders to gather information and collect feedback during three intensive rounds of public comment – that also included meetings with elected officials to discuss the merger and its potential implications.

While there is no established timetable in place for the remaining commissioners to review, and sign off on the merger’s implementation, the voting and its procedural processes should take no longer than a few weeks.

Source: Washington Post