FCC Stops Clock on Comcast/TWC Merger...Again

The FCC has stopped the clock on its review of the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger to vet documents TWC did not produce until this week.

The clock was stopped on day 104 of an unofficial 180-day deadline for vetting mergers.

In a letter to Comcast, FCC Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake said the clock would stop until Jan. 12 so that FCC staffers could review 31,000 pages of documents TWC did not produce due to "vendor error."

There were another 7,000 pages of documents that the FCC did not get to see until Dec. 9 and 10--they were due to the FCC Sept. 11--due to what the FCC said was an "inappropriate claim" of attorney-client privilege.

After initially signaling it would produce the missing documents by mid-January, and after the FCC registered its displeasure with the delay, TWC said it would produce them by Dec. 22.

Lake said the FCC can understand minor errors in producing documents and making privilege claims, "the magnitude of the errors, with respect to both the document production and the privilege log, is material and the delays in rectifying them were substantial so that the tardy productions have interfered with the Commission’s ability to conduct a prompt and thorough review of the pending applications."

Lake said that did not affect the pleading cycle. Reply comments are still due Dec. 23.

“Today's delay is a procedural issue, not a substantive one," said Time Warner Cable in a stateemnt. "We already have provided the FCC more than five million pages of documents and we will continue to provide the FCC everything that they need to review this transaction.”

“Time Warner Cable will be making additional document production today and tomorrow and we are confident that any outstanding documents will be produced to the FCC in an expedited manner." sid Comcast in a statement.  "This limited and defined three week clock stoppage allows FCC staff to review the new materials, and we remain on track for the transaction review to be concluded early in 2015. We are pleased that the FCC did not delay the December 23 reply comment deadline so that work on the transaction will continue and we’ll be filing our final comments tomorrow.”Here's our statement:

The FCC also stopped the clock on the merger review in October over the issue of third-party access to documents.

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.