As expected, the FCC has stopped the clock on its 180-day reviews of both Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable and AT&T’s proposed takeover of DirecTV.
Among the multiple factors the FCC needs to assess is the concern that, should it approve the mergers, the resulting combinations would have market-warping power when it comes to negotiating content rights.
In order to evaluate if that might be the case, the Commission wants review current contracts involving content rights.
Numerous content companies, the FCC explained in an order released today, have filed multiple objections, some complaining that specific individuals should be barred from viewing the contracts, some insisting that no one outside the FCC should be able to review the documents.
There are 108 people on the list of those who would end up seeing the documents. The content companies object to them all on principle, and object to 14 in particular.
The FCC has rejected the argument that nobody outside the FCC should be able to review the contracts, but at least some of the content companies are insistent that no outside counsel for AT&T be allowed to see the contracts. They are presumably the 14 people specifically objected to, or among that number.
Given that the parties are at an impasse on this matter, the FCC said it is stopping its review clock.
The FCC order states: “We agree with these commenters that their current inability to review Highly Confidential Information that has been submitted in these dockets significantly hampers their ability to meaningfully comment and participate in these proceedings… Accordingly, we are suspending the pleading cycles and stopping our 180-day informal time clock in both dockets.”
Comcast vice president of government communications Sena Fitzmaurice said in a statement, “As we noted previously, it is routine for the FCC to pause the review of significant transactions as it works to create a full record. The Commission is working to hear the concerns of various parties. In the meantime, review of information and evidence already in the docket will continue. We are confident that the Commission will quickly resolve these issues while continuing its work so that review will be completed in early 2015.”
Filed Under: Industry regulations