A Federal Court ruled that programmers do not have to share details of their transmission contracts with a set of MVPDs because some of the MVPDs want to hire outside legal counsel to review the documents.
The FCC wants to see the contracts as part of its process of evaluating whether or not to approve the Comcast / Time Warner Cable / Charter Communications deal and the AT&T / DirecTV deal.
About 100 people or so would be privy to the documents, including FCC employees, in-house lawyers for the companies involved, and a small handful of independent lawyers engaged by those companies. The programmers objected to sharing contract details with the independent lawyers, and the U.S. Court of Appeals Court in Washington agreed.
Companies opposing the FCC move include CBS Corp., Scripps Networks, Walt Disney Co., 21st Century Fox, Time Warner, Univision, and Viacom.
The issue at hand is pricing power. Smaller competitors in the multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) market believe they will be operating at an unfair disadvantage should the mergers be approved.
The American Cable Association (ACA) rapidly objected to the decision, filing a formal motion to reconsider (officially, a motion to intervene). There is no justification for the programmers’ claim that sharing the contract information would harm anyone, the ACA argued, and therefore there is no justification for the Appeals Court’s stay.
Filed Under: Industry regulations