Conglom merger marches on

AT&T clears FCC hurdle on Comcast tie-up

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission signaled Friday that it was satisfied with an explanation of the recent deal between AT&T and AOL Time Warner to untangle their joint ownership of Time Warner Entertainment.

The regulatory agency restarted the clock on its review of the Comcast/AT&T merger, despite complaints by consumer advocates that a provision of the TWE pact giving AOL TW carriage on Comcast/AT&T high-speed Internet lines goes against the public interest by giving AOL TW a huge advantage over smaller competitors.

The FCC has every authority to intervene in the TWE matter in the course of its review of the Comcast/AT&T merger, which will create the country’s No. 1 cable company, consumer advocates said in filings with the reg agency.

Lacking detail

According to the Consumer Federation of America and the Media Access Project, AT&T and Comcast didn’t even bother to provide the FCC with details of the carriage agreement when filing general papers last month regarding the TWE deal.

The FCC had stopped the merger review clock in early August, pending finalization of the TWE agreement. Reg agency gave the public until Sept. 5 to comment on TWE, as it related to the Comcast/AT&T.

In restarting the merger clock late Friday, the FCC signaled that it was satisfied with the TWE documents filed by AT&T and Comcast.

The FCC could not be reached for comment.

October wrap-up

With the clock restarted, the FCC’s review of Comcast/AT&T should be completed by late October. The U.S. Dept. of Justice also must clear the merger.

The complex TWE transaction struck between AT&T and AOL Time Warner gives the latter control of Warner Bros. and Home Box Office, as well as TWE’s interest in the WB, Comedy Central and Court TV. AOL TW also gets the carriage agreement.

In turn AT&T-Comcast will own the majority of TWE’s cable interests.

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