A federal judge put the finishing touches on the merger of NBC and Comcast Thursday evening. When signing off on the deal, D.C. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon expressed concern in his memo over the court's ability to enforce restrictions attached to the deal when the FCC signed off on it January. Going forward, the two companies would like to be known as NBCUniversal. At the time, we examined five nightmare scenarios that could stem from the deal. The company isn't able to restrict the distribution of its properties online (i.e., they have to let Apple and Netflix distribute its shows), and as a broadband company it isn't allowed to throttle a user's connection if they're on a rival's website. Judge Leon expressed his concern over the government's ability to actually enforce any of these restrictions, as well-intentioned as they are. He writes "because of the way the Final Judgment is structured, the Government's ability to 'enforce' the Final Judgment, and, frankly, this Court's ability to oversee it, are, to say the least, limited... neither the Court nor the parties has a crystal ball to forecast how this Final Judgment, along with its arbitration mechanisms, will actually function."
The judge ordered a few final restrictions to deal, in an effort enforce the previous restrictions put on the deal. Talking Points Memo summarizes the judge's new rules:
For at least the next two years, NBCUniversal will have to report to the Justice Department on how many online video companies initiate arbitration claims against NBCUniversal due to content disputes.
The report must be made available to all the parties, including the arbitrators. Annual hearings at the court have to be held "to explain and discuss the report and any other non-arbitration related issues that may have arisen during the previous year to ensure that the Final Judgement does, and continues to, satisfy the public interest."