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FCC Approves Charter-TWC Protective Orders

The FCC has approved the protective orders and associated framework for treating sensitive information in the Charter-Time Warner Cable deal.

That means the FCC can start the shot clock on the merger review and open a comment window.

The three Democrats had already voted to approve, but the item could not be official until the other two votes were in or the time to vote had run out. The Republicans had issues with how the FCC had addressed protection of sensitive info more generally as part of a court remand of its protective orders in the AT&T-DirecTV and Comcast-TWC deal reviews.

The votes are now all in, with commissioner Ajit Pai dissenting in part and approving in part and commissioner Michael O'Rielly dissenting.

The order won't released until the FCC incorporates the dissents.

O'Rielly made it clear that he was not happy with the decision, particularly with linking the protective order for the deal review with broader issues of how to treat confidential commercial information in other contexts.

"The majority leverages the need for fair, expedient review of the proposed transaction before us to set new procedures for the treatment of confidential commercial information," he said in a statement.

"Today, the majority of the Commission attempts to respond to the D.C. Circuit’s ruling in CBS Corp. v. FCC, 1 but fails to do so in a constructive manner. Along the way, it creates vast exposure for communications providers’ market sensitive information, including pricing and other contractual terms. And it subjects innumerable parties, even those not seeking Commission approval of a transaction, to potentially irreparable harm when information they thought would be protected is disclosed as well. In total, it is a wild over-reach that hopefully will be reviewed and rejected by the courts, or Congress," the commissioner said.

"The D.C. Circuit was clear that Commission needed to set the record straight on its procedures for handling confidential information in transaction reviews," said an FCC source who asked not to be named. "Today’s framework responds to the Court’s concerns and balances legitimate confidentiality interests with the need for the Commission to be informed by diverse opinions."

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.