Here’s the latest indication that Comcast’s $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable may be in trouble: FCC staffers have recommended that regulators turn the case over to an administrative law judge, a sign that the agency believes the deal would hurt the public, The Wall Street Journal reports citing unidentified sources.

A hearing designation order wouldn’t necessarily kill the merger. But it would launch a potentially long review process that might be more than the No. 1 and 2 cable companies can stomach.

The report follows company reps’ meetings today with the FCC and the Justice Department. Antitrust attorneys are said to be ready to recommend that Justice sue to block the deal — a development that has increased Wall Street’s skepticism that it will be consummated.

Comcast declined to comment on the meetings, or the Journal‘s report. It will have to file an ex parte communication at the FCC summarizing the company’s comments to the agency.