Charter-TWC Shot Clock Won't Start Just Yet

The FCC won't start the proposed comment cycle for the Charter-Time Warner Cable-Bright House merger until at least sometime next week.

While the FCC finished voting this week on the protective orders that outline how sensitive business information will be handled, including how it is shared with third parties, an FCC source said the dissents from the decision—both Republicans had issues, one partial dissent by commissioner Ajit Pai, one full dissent by commissioner Michael O'Rielly—will first be incorporated before the item is released, which is expected to be sometime next week.

"The comment period and the shot clock are both tied to the release of a public notice, which comes out the same time as the protective orders are released," an FCC spokesperson said. That had not happened at press time and was not expected to until after the holiday weekend, particularly given that the FCC website was being worked on over the weekend with some functions unavailable until Sept. 8.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said that the clock and cycle would be on hold until the item had been voted. It has had three votes in favor for several weeks, but the Republicans were holding off given their major concerns.

The protective orders were both specific to the deal and dealt more generally with the treatment of sensitive information by the commission going forward. The Republicans wanted the specific orders and the more general guidance dealt with separately, with the latter put out for separate comment; the chairman did not.

The broader scope of the orders was the result of a court remand of the FCC's previous protective orders for the Comcast/TWC and AT&T/DirecTV merger reviews. The court rejected the FCC's decision to make program contract work product available to hundreds of outside parties, including competitors, for lack of sufficient justification, but gave the FCC a chance to make a better case for why such sharing was necessary.

According to O'Rielly's dissent, the new orders create "vast exposure for communications providers’ market sensitive information, including pricing and other contractual terms."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.