A significant question in AT&T’s $84 billion acquisition of Time Warner has been whether it would not only have to clear Justice Department officials, but the FCC as well. The DOJ reviews mergers to see if they are within antitrust laws; the FCC review is broader in scope, as it examines whether a transaction is in the public interest. The FCC scrutiny also subjects merging companies to a public comment process.
“While subject to change, it is currently anticipated that Time Warner will not need to transfer any of its FCC licenses to AT&T in order to continue to conduct its business operations after the closing of the transaction,” AT&T said in the regulatory filing.
When the merger was announced in October, there was doubt that the transaction would face an official FCC review, as the agency has to approve the transfer of broadcast and other licenses.
Time Warner owns just one station, WPCH-TV, an independent station in Atlanta that is actually managed by Meredith Corp. under a contract agreement. There’s been a lot of speculation in Washington that Time Warner would try to divest that station or spin it off. It also holds other licenses that have to do with satellite uplinks.
During the campaign, Donald Trump said that he opposed the planned merger. This week, Bloomberg and other news outlets reported that he remained against the transaction. Justice Department officials would still have to mount a case to sue the companies in court to block the transaction.
Even if the companies do not file for licenses transfers with the FCC, agency officials could still offer input on the merger to the Justice Department.