FCC Gets, Seeks More Info on Charter-TWC Deal

Liberty responds to questions; Level 3 interconnection info sought

The FCC has received responses from Liberty regarding its relationship, and that of Liberty chairman John Malone, to New Charter, the company resulting from the proposed merger of Charter, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

The commission has also issued a request to Level 3 related to its interconnection agreement with Bright House, all part of its ongoing review of the proposed Charter-Time Warner Cable-Bright House merger.

The commission on Jan. 4 stopped its informal 180-day clock for 15 days, pointing to various submissions and supplemental filings from the merging parties through Dec. 22. "Pausing the clock will ensure that commenters have sufficient time to review and comment on this new information," the FCC said in pausing the clock. But more info has been coming in since then, plus the new request to Level 3.

On Jan. 8, the FCC asked Level 3 for the most recent interconnection agreement with Bright House and with others.

On Jan. 11, Time Warner Cable supplemented its response to an earlier filing to clarify certain data. Also on Jan. 11, Liberty Corp. (Malone has a 27% stake in Charter) supplied answers to a bunch of questions, though conceding that the documents it supplied related to terms and conditions of affiliation, distribution and program license agreements and negotiations were not responsive "at this time" to the FCC requests.

Liberty did supply documents in response to FCC questions about Liberty's relationship to Starz and Discovery, Malone's involvement in programming and distribution decisions, including making that programming available to over-the-top providers, and Malone's or Liberty's "incentive or ability" to withhold programming from OVDs or MVPDs other than New Charter.

The FCC is concerned about ensuring that mergers do not adversely affect competing over-the-top video providers.

Charter CEO Tom Rutledge has said that favoring Charter would not make sense for Liberty, and pointed out that Malone's 27% stake in Charter would be diluted to 18% by the merger. There was even an FCC question about such public statements, with the commission wanting to know what specific precautions had been taken to insure that Liberty and Malone can't "improperly" influence New Charter.