FCC Stops Clocks on Merger Reviews...Again

The Federal Communications Commission has stopped the informal shot clocks on the Comcast-Time Warner Cable and AT&T-DirecTV mergers to give a federal appeals court time to rule on a challenge to protective orders related to those deal reviews.

"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, which both are slated to do by the end of March," the FCC said. "In reaching this conclusion, the Commission 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."

The court heard oral argument in programmer challenges Feb. 20.

The FCC also pointed out that the clock is something of an aspirational exercise, and is only an "informal benchmark." The FCC has stopped the clocks before, and in other reviews has exceeded the 180-day benchmark by many months.

Comcast responded swiftly to the news.

"We understand the FCC's decision to pause the informal review clock while the court continues to review a procedural matter related to the transaction," said Sena Fitzmaurice, VP, government communications, for Comcast. "That case is under expedited review, oral argument occurred in late February, and a decision is expected shortly.

"In the meantime, the FCC appears to be making significant progress in the review of our transaction in order to bring it to a conclusion," Fitzmaurice added. "The comment cycle is complete, the economists have all weighed in, and the parties have responded to all of the FCC's Requests for Information. We look forward to working with the government to complete the regulatory review process."

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.