FCC Puts AT&T/DirecTV, Comcast/Time Warner Cable Mergers On Hold
October 23, 2014 at 4:44 AM (PT)
In an unprecedented move, the FCC has called a time out in its review of the proposed mergers of COMCAST with TIME WARNER CABLE as well as the one between AT&T and DIRECTV.
That means the informal 180-day schedule has been put on hold because content companies are blocking the ability of regulators and consultants to examine their business relationships with the pay-TV companies.
Earlier in the month the FCC extended the review period for the COMCAST/TWC megamerger by three weeks, to JANUARY 27th, 2015, in a move that had investors on edge.
This latest delay involves third-party media companies refusing to allow their confidential carriage fee agreements with the four distributors be made available to the review board.
"We required potential reviewing parties to re-sign the acknowledgments required under the Joint Protective Orders and provided third parties a procedure by which they could object to certain individuals being permitted to review confidential information," the FCC explained in a statement.
After that, content companies filed objections, "against every individual who sought to review highly confidential information".
Objecting parties include CBS, DISCOVERY COMMUNICATIONS, SCRIPPS, TIME WARNER, TVONE, TWENTY FIRST CENTURY FOX, UNIVISION COMMUNICATIONS, VIACOM and THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY, who all "reiterate[d] their objection to permitting any individual to access their highly confidential carriage agreements," according to the FCC.
The reviewers now feel their ability to evaluate both mergers has been affected, and have both both on hold "for an indeterminate amount of time."
Said the FCC, "After we rule on the objections, we will issue a public notice setting forth new pleading cycles that will provide sufficient time for commenters to review the relevant materials and prepare their comments."