FCC Restarts Clock on Reviews for AT&T, Comcast Acquisitions

**Editor’s Note: Please click here for a recap of the biggest channel-impacting mergers in Q3 2014.**

The Federal Communications Commission has restarted the 180-day clocks on its reviews of AT&T’s $48.5 billion acquisition of DirecTV and Comcast’s $45.2 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable.

As of Dec. 3, the Commission restarted the clock for the AT&T/DirecTV merger to day 70. The clock for the Comcast/Time Warner Cable deal has been restarted to the 85th day, according to a public notice.

The FCC sets 180 days as its unofficial review of mergers, although the Commission’s timing for a decision is purely within its discretion and the superficial deadline is secondary to its statutory obligation of determining whether a transaction is in the public interest.

In the AT&T and Comcast proceedings, the clocks were stopped and the cycles for filing pleadings were suspended as a result of objections to the availability of highly confidential information related to the distribution of video programming.

CBS, The Walt Disney Company, Univision Communications and other content companies petitioned the FCC to prohibit any reviewing party from accessing the confidential video programming information. The Commission denied the requests, prompting the content companies to file an appeal in Washington, D.C. The federal appeals court granted temporary relief to the content companies, prohibiting access to the materials during the pendency of the appeal.

In the public notice announcing that the FCC has restarted the 180-clocks of the merger reviews, the Commission said reviewing parties can access confidential information other than that pertaining to the appeal.

Initially, AT&T had until Nov. 5, 2014 to respond to responses or opposition to its acquisition of DirecTV. AT&T now has until Jan. 7, 2015, to file the paperwork. Comcast now has until Dec. 23, 2014, to respond to responses or opposition to its acquisition of Time Warner Cable. The initial deadline was Oct. 8, 2014.

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