Congress is already gearing up to scrutinize the Comcast-NBC deal

The U.S. Congress will investigate Comcast's (CMCSA) proposed $30 billion merger with NBC Universal, a powerful House committee chairman said hours after the deal was announced on Thursday. The hearings will likely be the focal point of intense government scrutiny of the pact, which unites two of the biggest media companies in the world.

The Federal Communications Commission is also expected to examine the deal. News of the government probes -- while expected -- comes as interest groups unloaded on the proposed megamerger. "This deal is a witch's brew," says Art Brodsky, spokesperson for Public Knowledge, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group that has tangled repeatedly with Comcast over broadband policy issues.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D.-Calif.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says he'll work with Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, to schedule hearings on this matter "at the earliest practicable date."

"This proposal raises questions regarding diversity, competition and the future of the production and distribution of video content across broadcasting, cable, online and mobile platforms," says Waxman. "It is imperative that the FCC, the Justice Department and the FTC rigorously assess whether this transaction is in the public interest."

"Complex Questions"

Senate Communications Subcommittee Chairman Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), says he intends to monitor the pact as well.

"The Comcast-NBC deal announced is extremely significant in scope and raises some complex questions that I fully expect Obama administration officials will consider carefully," Kerry said in a statement. "My subcommittee will monitor that process closely to ensure that any legitimate anticompetitive and public interest concerns are fully addressed."

A spokesperson for Waxman declined to elaborate on the timing of the hearings. An FCC spokesperson also declined to comment on the matter beyond saying, "The FCC will carefully examine the proposed merger and will be thorough, fair and fact-based in its review."

But interest groups weren't holding back.

"In combining a major television network, a movie studio, a cable programmer and the largest Internet service provider/cable operator, this new joint venture must be ready to take extraordinary steps to alleviate concerns about potential anticompetitive behavior if it expects the deal to be approved," says Gigi Sohn, founder and president of Public Knowledge.

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