Content Companies Refile Stay Request

Content companies filed their latest volley Thursday in the ongoing legal battle over the FCC's decision to allow third-party viewing of highly sensitive programming contracts as part of the review of the Comcast/Time Warner Cable and AT&T/DirecTV merger reviews. It was actually the re-filing of a previous court request made only days ago.

That latest filing was an amended petition for a stay of that FCC decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The companies filed a stay request with the court on Monday, but that was a stay of a Media Bureau decision to allow potentially hundreds of third parties access hundreds of thousands of pages of those documents and the memos and emails about how the deals were done. The bureau Wednesday released the modifications it made to protective orders. A politically divided commission then voted to uphold that bureau decision Monday after the companies had already filed, so they had to amend the filing to reflect that they were now challenging a full commission decision.

The petition says the FCC's decision "violates the Trade Secrets Act and the Administrative Procedures Act, and will cause substantial, irreparable harm to Petitioners and the highly competitive programming marketplace in which they operate."

The refiled petition also makes use of Republican dissents from that Monday vote, in which Commissioner Ajit Pai described the process — he says he was given virtually no time to digest the item before being told he had to vote on it — as "procedural shenanigans." Pai also has issues with making the info widely available, particularly memos and emails detailing the negotiations.

Filing the original and amended petitions were CBS Corporation, Scripps Networks Interactive, Inc., The Walt Disney Company, Time Warner Inc., Twenty-First Century Fox, Inc., Univision Communications Inc., and Viacom Inc.

If the court does not grant a stay, the FCC is making the documents accessible starting at 3 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 17.

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.