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UPDATE 1-US Senate panel to discuss Comcast/NBC deal Feb 4
* Senate panel to hold hearing on Feb. 4
* Top Comcast, NBC executives scheduled to appear
WASHINGTON Jan 20 (Reuters) - The Senate antitrust panel has scheduled a Feb. 4 hearing on Comcast Corp's (CMCSA.O) joint venture with NBC Universal, in particular to discuss whether the cable giant's rivals will lose access to programming their customers want.
The panel said in news release that Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and NBC President Jeff Zucker were scheduled to testify.
"Comcast is the nation's largest cable company, with almost 24 million subscribers," the subcommittee said in a statement.
"Its acquisition of NBC Universal will add programming and media to its control, raising concerns about whether the deal will give the new entity an unfair advantage in the marketplace at the expense of consumers."
Antitrust and telecommunications experts have forecast the $30 billion deal will face a long, intense regulatory review, but will win approval after the companies agree to some concessions.
The U.S. government's concern will likely focus on ensuring Comcast's rivals, such as Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N), DISH Network Corp (DISH.O) and smaller cable operators, can continue to access NBC Universal's programs at a fair price. (Reporting by Diane Bartz; editing by Andre Grenon)
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