Newsmax: FCC Jumped Gun on Charter Petition

Newsmax Media has told the FCC its request for comment only two days after Charter sought an early termination of some Time Warner Cable merger deal conditions jumped the gun and created the appearance of favoritism toward the company. 

Charter last month asked the FCC to terminate the seven-year interconnection condition on its 2016 deal to acquire Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks on May 18, 2021, two years early — in light of the ”dramatic“ changes in the online video marketplace. Charter also wants a similar early exit from its ”no data caps or usage-based pricing“ condition.  

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Newsmax said it had not decided whether to weigh in on the petition itself, but definitely made itself heard on the timing of the request for comment.  

Newsmax points to language in the FCC's merger order that if Charter petitioned to shorten the term of conditions from seven to five years, "the Wireline Competition Bureau shall, nine (9) months prior to the fifth anniversary of the [May 18, 2016] closing date, seek public comment on whether the company has demonstrated that those conditions are no longer in the public interest and will rule on the petition on or before the fifth anniversary of the closing date." 

That fifth anniversary would be May 18, 2021, so the "nine months before" would be Aug. 18, 2020.  

Charter filed its petition June 18, but the bureau put the petition out for public comment only two days later. 

Newsmax said that the bureau has no discretion to move the Aug. 18 date for seeking comment, and should put the proceeding on hold until then. "[The merger order] does not permit the Bureau to seek comment prior to Aug. 18, 2020. Nor does it permit the Bureau to "seek" public comment after August 18, 2020," Newsmax told the commission.  

Newsmax said that whether the behavioral conditions are still appropriate requires the full record, with interested parties, which Newsmax may or may not be, given enough time to gauge that compliance and enough time to compose comments, especially given the pandemic, which has complicated the the process of drafting submissions to the FCC. "By rushing to put the Petition out for comment in only two business days, the Bureau would inappropriately limit the available data and amount of time for assessment of the Petition, creating the appearance of undue favoritism toward the petitioners," Newsmax said. 

Newsmax Media is the parent company of Newsmax TV, the Boomer-targeted conservative 24/7 cable news channel. 

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.