(Corrects third paragraph to reflect that McDonald is a former Justice Department official)
The U.S. Justice Department will conduct an antitrust review of the proposed $30 billion joint venture between Comcast Corp and NBC Universal, department spokeswoman Gina Talamona said on Wednesday.
The Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission divide the work of antitrust enforcement, with each agency taking mergers that fall into their area of expertise.
But there had been a question over which agency would take this deal, said Bruce McDonald, a former deputy assistant attorney general with the U.S. Justice Department. He is now at the law firm Jones Day.
That will be a touchy one. Both have done cable. Both have done content, he said, before Talamona said that the Justice Department would take the deal.
Talamona was unavailable to comment on why the Justice Department was given this particular deal.
The Federal Communications Commission, which must approve broadcast license transfers and applications, will also review the proposal.
The U.S. government's concern will likely focus on ensuring that Comcast's rivals, like Verizon Communications, DISH Network Corp and smaller cable operators, can continue to show NBC Universal's programs.
Comcast and General Electric Co unveiled their NBC Universal deal in early December, planning to set up a joint venture that is 51 percent owned by Comcast and 49 percent by GE. The deal would give Comcast, the top U.S. cable service provider, control of a major media conglomerate.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz)