Northwest: FCC Should Vet Complaint Before AT&T/DirecTV Action

Files informal objection to proposed merger

Northwest Broadcasting et al., which has filed a retrans complaint against DirecTV last week (http://www.multichannel.com/news/fcc/broadcasters-file-retrans-complaint...), has also taken aim at the AT&T/DirecTV deal.

In a filing with the FCC, the broadcasters have filed an informal opposition to the deal, and asked the FCC to hold off on action on the deal until the commission reviews and acts on its "emergency complaint" and request that the FCC force DirecTV to support the claim that its asking price for carriage is market-based.

Northwest said it was joining the "chorus" of deal critics and that its petition was relevant to the deal vetting currently in process.

"The Complaint raises substantial and material questions that go to the heart of the decision the Commission is being asked to make about the Applications in this proceeding," said the broadcasters. "Indeed, the Complaint focuses on matters of direct relevance to the Commission’s review of the Applications, including issues of both substance (whether DIRECTV uses its size to secure below-market retransmission consent rates from broadcasters, especially small broadcasters) and process (whether DIRECTV conceals relevant marketplace facts during negotiations)."

The FCC has not appeared in any hurry to finish its review of the deal.

It stopped the clock on March 13 in day 170 of that review, saying it was doing so to give a federal court the chance to rule on the FCC's decision to make programming contract information in the deal available to third parties, a move challenged by programmers though not AT&T or DirecTV.

But it has been over five weeks since the court ruled (http://www.multichannel.com/news/transactions/fcc-clock-still-stopped-at...).