FCC Names Teams to Review Comcast-TWC, AT&T-DirecTV Mergers

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Two lawyers formerly with the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division will lead FCC review teams looking into the proposed mergers of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, and AT&T with DirecTV.

Hillary Burchuk, trial attorney with the FCC’s office of general counsel, will lead the team reviewing Comcast’s plans to acquire Time Warner Cable, as well as a related transaction in which Charter Communications will acquire 1.4 million Time Warner Cable subscribers. Another 2.5 million Comcast subscribers will become part of a spinoff company controlled by Charter.

Burchuk was formerly an attorney in the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, and was among the team that worked on that department’s review of the Comcast and NBC Universal merger in 2011. Government regulators approved that deal subject to a number of conditions.

Jamillia Ferris, who served in the Justice Department from 2010 to 2013, will head the team reviewing the AT&T-DirecTV transaction. Her tenure at the Justice Department included a stint as chief of staff and counsel to William Baer, assistant attorney general of the Antitrust Division. Among the cases she oversaw was the Apple ebook price fixing lawsuit. She most recently has been in private practice with Hunton & Williams.

In an interview in May, before her appointment to the FCC, she told Variety that the government would likely look at a number of potential impacts from the mergers. “Horizontal competition won’t be the only way they look at market dynamics and the competitive effects of the transaction,” she said. “For example, you can expect that they will examine whether the combined company will have enhanced buying power that results in less or lower quality output when negotiating with content providers. DOJ may also analyze whether that power harms competition with other media companies trying to access content.”

The FCC also announced that its general counsel, Jonathan Sallet, will chair a steering committee that will oversee both of the transactions, with members including William Lake, chief of the Media Bureau; Mindel de la Torre, chief of the International Bureau; Julie Veach, chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau; and Roger Sherman, chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau.

William Rogerson, a professor at Northwestern University, will serve as senior economist overseeing the transactions. He argued against the Comcast-NBC U merger in 2010, after producing a study commissioned by the American Cable Assn. Shane Greenstein, professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, will serve as senior economic consultant on the transactions.

Wall Street analysts said that the announcements signaled that the FCC was about to start its 180-day clock to review the transactions, although that time frame is informal. In a report issued on Monday, Bernstein Research’s Paul de Sa wrote that the selections of team members signal a coordinated, efficient review process with the Department of Justice, which also must greenlight the mergers. Bernstein’s analysts predict that both transactions will be approved with conditions early in 2015.

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  1. glen rocklin says:

    The merger of two poorly run companies like Comcast and Time Warner will only result in higher prices and lower quality with any value going to greedy shareholders and of course the executives with their stock options. American business took a turn for the worse when stock options and tied to executive pay became the norm in the early 80’s and has been getting worse ever since. This move has resulted in higher unemployment, higher costs, and lower quality. The federal oversight has been nonexistent and I expect it will be no different with Hillary Burchuk

  2. max says:

    I think as a consumer that Comcast should not be allowed to buy Time Warner, Comcast is a terrible company as far as being consumer friendly. They have service interruptions for long periods of time even when there are no weather related problems. Their customer service employees are not consistent with the information they give you about getting credit for interrupted service. Their offices where you go to return or get new equipment are usually badly run. There are only a few people to serve you and the waiting area is full of people. If I had a different option I would not subscribe to Comcast, but Dish is not much better in our area. I all these companies merge they will not be better, they will get more expensive and service will keep getting worse.

  3. That is a NIGHTMARE! They already throttle Netflixs and Youtube. They will cut the throat of Internet video. You can not allow this. I can’t even put my real name on this posting because I believe all three of these companies target companies and individuals through dishonest means. For example, I had the unlimited plan with AT and T with my iPhone. After I learned what throttling was, I learned that AT and T was not giving me the UNLIMITED access I was paying for. It has also been proven that Comcast has been doing the same thing with Netflixs. I know nothing about DirectTV except for the fact that because of the option of DirectTV not being in bed with these guys…AT and T & Comcast stay in check. If you put these three in bed together, it’s for one intention and one intention only. Screw the American public.

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