The FCC just stopped its informal 180-day clocks on Comcast’s planned acquisition of Time Warner Cable — for the second time — and AT&T’s deal with DirecTV. The problem: Programmers including CBS, Scripps Networks, Disney, Time Warner, Fox, Univision and Viacom don’t want potential critics of the deals to see their arrangements with the distributors, now on file at the agency. Between October 15 and 20 the programmers “filed objections against every individual who sought to review” the terms, –which the agency calls “Highly Confidential Information” — the FCC’s Media Bureau Chief William Lake says in today’s order. Content companies say that they have “longstanding objection to permitting any individual to access their highly confidential carriage agreements.”
As a result, commenters including Dish Network, RCN, and the Writers Guild of America, West asked for additional time to file formal replies to Comcast and AT&T’s arguments in favor of their deals.
“We agree with these commenters that their current inability to review Highly Confidential Information that has been submitted in these dockets significantly hampers their ability to meaningfully comment and participate in these proceedings,” Lake says. He plans to rule on the objections and then will reset the clock to “provide sufficient time for commenters to review the relevant materials and prepare their comments.”
Comcast, for its part, says it’s unconcerned by the delay. It’s “routine for the FCC to pause the review of significant transactions,” the company says. “We are confident that the Commission will quickly resolve these issues will continuing its work so that review will be completed in early 2015.”