FCC Clock Still Stopped on AT&T-DirecTV

The FCC has yet to restart its informal 180-day shot clock on the AT&T-DirecTV merger.

It stopped the clock on March 13 in day 170 of that review, saying it was doing so to give a federal court the chance to rule on the FCC's decision to make programming contract information in the deal available to third parties, a move challenged by programmers though not AT&T or DirecTV.

"At this time, we believe it is prudent to pause the informal 180-day transaction clocks because the Commission would be advantaged by knowing the resolution of the pending Petition for Review before the transaction clocks reach the 180-day mark," the FCC said in announcing the stoppage.

It has been over a week since a three-judge panel of the court unanimously rejected the FCC decision for insufficient justification, but the FCC could theoretically appeal the decision to the full court if it chose.

The FCC may just be trying to collect more input on possible conditions on the deal, many have been offered up in the docket, before restarting the clock so it is closer to being done when the clock strikes 180 days. That is only an informal target, however, and has been honored in the breach as well as the observance (Comcast-TWC was in day 234 when the clock was stopped and the Sinclair/Allbritton station deal took 327 days).

The FCC pointed out in stopping the clock that it "reserves the right to restart the clock as it believes will best serve the public interest and it intends to provide further guidance as it becomes appropriate."

FCC spokespeople were unavailable to provide any guidance at press time.

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.