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Deal-Driven Decision-Making

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission under chair Ajit Pai is making good on its promise not to regulate by condition, at least if the agency’s approval of the Liberty Interactive-General Communication Inc. deal is any indication.

Pai signaled several weeks back that what he saw as the FCC’s efforts under his predecessor to extract conditions unrelated to a deal to get it approved — net-neutrality conditions on Comcast’s 2011 deal for NBCUniversal, for example — would not be repeated on his watch.

Liberty Interactive’s $1.1 billion purchase of GCI, Alaska’s largest cable operator, had already been OK’d by the Justice Department as not a threat to competition, but the Pai FCC put its public imprimatur on the deal as well.

In doing so, it levied no conditions, and said the ones proposed by deal critics were related not to the deal, but to issues they had had with GCI before the transaction was announced.

The FCC said those could be independently pursued through complaints, and by the Enforcement Bureau, but did not affect this deal.

The approval spells out just what the FCC is and isn’t going to do. What it will do is impose conditions “only to remedy harms that arise from the transaction (i.e., transaction-specific harms)” and “related to the commission’s responsibilities under the Communications Act and related statutes.” What it won’t do is “impose conditions to remedy pre-existing harms or harms that are unrelated to the transaction.”

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.