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Bloomberg Asks FCC to Extend Comcast-NBCU Review

Bloomberg LP has asked the FCC to delay its comment deadline on the Comcast-NBC Universal deal for another 45 days, which would push the deadline into mid-September.

The current deadline is June 21 for comments and petitions to deny the deal. But Bloomberg, in a filing posted June 15, said that it, and the public, needs more time to vet new information the two companies submitted in two economic reports June 10 -- on the claimed economic benefits from the proposed $30 billion joint venture and the other on its impact on online video distribution.

In a filing with the commission, Bloomberg asks that it move the deadline to Aug. 5, which would push the deadline for oppositions to those comments to Sept. 4 and reply comments to Sept. 19.

The FCC had already delayed the original comment deadline by 45 days to accommodate those reports as well as for input on what, if any, impact a federal appeals court's ruling overturning the BitTorrent decision had on the deal.

Bloomberg, which signed a protective order to gain access to confidential info about the deal, says it would not have adequate time to review information, given that the two-business-day wait to get copies of reports would leave them only three business days for reviewing them.

Echoing earlier requests for extensions by various parties, Bloomberg says the extension is even more important because the FCC has made clear that it wants all arguments to be raised in those initial comments, saying it won't consider new arguments in ex parte filings or follow-up meetings after that deadline.

But Bloomberg wanted to draw a distinction between its request and one denied earlier in the year. "This fact, combined with the voluminous nature of the documents and the information produced by the applicants immediately preceding the current comment filing deadline, and the complexity of the legal and economic issues
raised, distinguished this case from prior instances in which extensions were denied," Bloomberg said.

Media Access Project, with support from Free Press, Consumer Federation of America, the American Cable Association, Consumer's Union and other critics of the deal, had sought an extension even before the BitTorrent decision, citing a number of comment deadlines coming due in the same time frame, and the importance of addressing all relevant issues in the comments given the FCC's express advice to do so. But the commission denied that request, pointing out that it had already established a 90-day window for comments and pleadings "two or three times" the period for previous mergers.

Bloomberg argues in its request that the deal represents "the greatest vertical integration in the history of the regulation of media," and "with the filing deadline only one week away and voluminous documents having only been submitted on Friday," that "there is no practicable way to assess all of the filing information and to comply with the Commission's instructions to raise all relevant issues in the petitions to deny or comments."

MAP, Free Press and others are preparing to file petitions to deny the deal.