On January 6, 2010, the U.S. Justice Department announced it would take on the task of evaluating the proposed merger between Comcast, the nation's largest cable and broadband provider, and NBC Universal, the media production conglomerate. This resolves speculation as to whether it would be the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission reviewing the acquisition.
"It is a good sign that the Justice Department was given the green light for the review," Josh Silver of the local media advocacy group Free Press said in a statement. Free Press has opposed the merger since first announced, saying that it would "create a behemoth with too much power in too few hands."
Silver points out that Christine Varney, the head of the Justice Department's antitrust division, had previously been a part of the Federal Trade Commission, and during her time there had paid close attention to vertical mergers—those where the acquiring company and the one to be purchased are in the same industry but offer different fundamental components of the creation and delivery process.
Varney is quoted in a 1995 speech as saying, "[V]ertical acquisitions can be anticompetitive. [They] can, in certain instances, increase those barriers to entry even more, raising costs and reducing innovation and quality for consumers."
"The DOJ's antitrust division now has a chance to make a clean break from the inactivity of recent years and tackle this merger with the urgency it deserves," Silver said.