He also told the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Tuesday that he would not be swayed by political pressures — including potentially from President Trump, who has said that he opposes the union.
“My role is not to read the headlines and try to make a determination based on who said what and in what forum,” Pai says. “It is the very limited role of looking at the papers that are in front of me and rendering a decision based on the facts and the law. Because once I stray from that position, I become nothing more than a political actor as well and I take my role seriously as defending the public interest and not the particular private interests of any private company or person.”
He declined to say whether, broadly speaking, he favors consolidation. “All we can do is take a look at the marketplace at a moment in time and try to discern: Is this regulatory framework the best one we can have in order to incentivize these massive investments in the networks that are going to benefit consumers in the years to come?”
PREVIOUS, Monday AM: Time Warner shares jumped late this morning after FCC chairman Ajit Pai said that his agency probably won’t review its $85 billion deal to sell itself to AT&T.
Last week, the entertainment giant agreed to sell its only TV station, Atlanta’s WPCH, to Meredith for $70 million — which means it would not be among the assets Time Warner will sell to the telco giant.
“That is the regulatory hook for FCC review,” Pai told the Wall Street Journal at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. “My understanding is that the deal won’t be presented to the commission.”
The report sent Time Warner shares up 1.4% to a 52-week high.
If the FCC is out of the picture, then the deal would only have to pass muster with the Justice Department, which could oppose it only if it finds an antitrust problem.
If the Trump administration opposes the deal — the president said he did during last year’s election campaign — then it would have been easier to attack at the FCC. The independent, quasi-judicial agency can fight mergers that it believes would hurt the public interest, which can be defined broadly.
Time Warner has other licenses besides the one held by WPCH. But they involve technical, mostly backhaul, functions and either might not have to be sold to AT&T or can be replaced by distribution technologies that don’t use the public airwaves.