Senate Judiciary Leaders ID Key Charter-TWC Issues

The bipartisan leadership of the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee have advised the FCC and Justice Department on what key issues the FCC should look at as it reviews the merged Charter/Time Warner Cable deal.

FCC staffers are apparently drilling down on potential conditions as the FCC approaches the informal shot clock deadline (the end of March) for making a decision.

In a letter to the FCC, Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) (chairman) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) (ranking member) said that if the FCC has issues with a combined company interfering with competing online video services, it should "require conditions that would alleviate the potential competitive harms."

They cited HBO specifically as a former exclusively cable supplier now offering an over-the-top version that did not require a cable subscription. HBO parent Time Warner (not to be confused with Time Warner Cable) has raised OTT issues with the deal at the FCC.

They also said that the FCC should make sure that independent programmers are viable. It advised the FCC to take those into account as it reviews the deal--for public interest harms and benefits.

Recognizing that the DOJ's is a strict antitrust review, they said any decision must be fact-specific and any "intervention" must be based on evidence.

In a statement responding to the letter, Charter talked about its general consumer-friendliness: "As we continue to engage with state and federal regulators on their thorough review of our pending transactions with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, we recognize the importance of demonstrating why they are in the public interest.

"Charter is a different type of cable company-committed to creating American jobs, offering the most innovative products and preserving an open internet. New Charter has received broad support from Netflix because of its online video friendly practices; independent programmers including TV1, Fuse Media and RFD-TV due to its support of independent and diverse programming; national civic organizations like National Urban League, NAN and LULAC due to its commitment to expand diversity and inclusion; and from numerous local and state regulators including New York which recently approved the merger. These parties have taken a close, honest look at the benefits of these transactions and have all come to the same conclusion: these transactions are in the public interest."

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.