Stop! In the Name of the FCC

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission’s Media Bureau last week stopped the clock on its reviews of both the Comcast-Time Warner Cable and AT&T-DirecTV mergers over the issue of third-party access to programming contracts.

The commission cited a series of objections filed by content companies that don’t want their contracts accessed by competitors.

Those companies had asked that contracts be reviewed at the Justice Department, not the FCC, but the commission denied that request and modified the order to add what it said was a unique combination of protections to exclude “competitive decisionmakers” from accessing the information.

The companies, joined by Discovery Communications and TV One, on Oct. 15 began individually challenging those who sought to review highly confidential information, including video programming contracts, under the FCC’s modified order.

The bureau said most of those objections were not specific to the more than 100 individual requests but were instead a blanket effort to prevent any access to carriage deals.

Some commenters have accused the companies of trying to nullify the protective order by filing the multiple objections and noted that not having access to the contracts would hamper the evaluations of the applications.

The Media Bureau said it agreed. It has has stopped the informal 180- day shot clock on the review of both deals and has suspended the pleading cycle until it rules on the programmer objections. At that point, it will issue a new pleading cycle. The bureau took the action on delegated authority, which means the commissioners did not vote.

Among those objecting to the programmers’ objections was the American Cable Association. “Objectors individually and collectively have failed to show cause why any of the ACA’s outside counsel, outside consultants, and employees of their outside counsel and outside consultants that have submitted Acknowledgements of Confidentiality in either of the two proceedings should be denied access to the requested documents and information pursuant to the terms and conditions established by the Media Bureau in the Modified Joint Protective Orders,” the ACA said.

The FCC stopped the clock on Comcast-TWC earlier this month to get more information from the company.

The clock is only a target, and the FCC has exceeded it by months in some reviews.

Comcast/NBCU Picks Rose As SVP, Government Affairs

WASHINGTON — Mitch Rose has joined Comcast and NBCUniversal as senior vice president, government affairs, for NBCU in Washington, reporting to David Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast, and Kim Harris, executive VP and general counsel of NBCU.

Rose succeeds Meredith Attwell Baker, the former FCC commissioner who was named president of CTIA: The Wireless Association in April, succeeding Steve Largent.

Rose has been consulting for Comcast and other clients, including the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, of which Comcast is the largest member. He is the former vice president of government relations at The Walt Disney Co.

“Mitch’s extensive background working in the private and public sectors for members of Congress, in the media and broadcast industry, and as a valued consultant has demonstrated his deft handling of important issues and strong understanding of the subjects, both domestic and international, that we face,” Cohen said of the hire.

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.