The Federal Communications Commission's top official has given his approval to Comcast Corp's purchase of NBC Universal with a number of tough and narrowly tailored conditions on the deal.
Conditions for approval would address several key areas, including online video, program access and program carriage, according FCC officials who declined to be named.
The Department of Justice must also approve the deal. FCC officials said there had been full cooperation between the government agencies. A Justice Department spokeswoman said its review was ongoing.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on Thursday circulated an order to other commissioners that would propose approving the agreement. It says the transaction does indeed meet the so-called public interest standard, with conditions.
The other commissioners can suggest changes to the order before it is put to a vote.
Comcast and NBC Universal officials said on Wednesday they did not expect the transaction to close until January. They had initially hoped to have it close this year.
Comcast revealed its bid to buy a 51 percent stake in NBC Universal from General Electric more than a year ago to create a $30 billion business that would include broadcast, cable networks, movie studios and theme parks.
It was not immediately clear how Genachowski's proposal would deal with some of the competitive concerns that sources have previously said regulators were examining.
Comcast could be in a position to stifle the fledgling online video market if it assumed partial control of Hulu, a joint venture of NBC Universal, News Corp and Walt Disney Co.
Comcast could also wield considerable discriminatory power over rival pay-TV outlets because of the wealth of programing and networks it would own once the deal closed, including leading networks such as USA, Bravo and MSNBC.
(Additional reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington, DC; Editing by Maureen Bavdek and Tim Dobbyn)