Comcast and Time Warner have told the FCC's General Counsel that they have not asked the commission to "defer action" on their planned acquisition of Adelphia or "expressed a preference for a date by which they hope the proceeding will be resolved."
The companies did say they had provided "periodic updates to the Commission on the status of the [Adelphia] bankruptcy process, the conclusion of which is a prerequisite to closing the Adelphia transactions."
The letter was prompted by one to the general counsel by Media Access Project Monday asking GC Robert Feder to look into possible violations of ex parte rules.
That MAP letter, in turn, stemmed from a press conference in which FCC Chairman Kevin Martin talked to reporters about a variety of subjects. MAP cited a number of press accounts, including B&C's (which it quoted), reporting that Martin "implied that he had been asked to defer action on the Adelphia matter at the request of certain parties." If so, said, MAP, that should have been disclosed it as an ex parte communication.
B&C 's characterization that Martin suggested the delay in the merger decision "was the product of conversation with the parties involved" stemmed from the following exchange:
Reporter: "The Adelphia deal with Comcast and Time Warner. I think the clock is up to over 250 in terms of the days of review. What makes this deal harder to work through than, say the bigger mergers, uh, the telecom mergers of last year? Is there just not a consensus among the commissioners to get the order out the door and you need a fifth? What's the hold-up here?"
Martin: "I don't talk about the details or the individual merits of any of the proceedings that are in front of us.
"But the commission has had a variety of transactions that we dealt with last year. And we're going to have additional transactions we're dealing with this year, and some of those that are in front of us. And in each case, we work closely with the parties that are in front of us on the timing of when, you know, of how important it is to try to get it through to the parties themselves and I think that we work very closely with the parties to try to be responsive to their concerns and the time frames they end up having."
Time Warner and Comcast in their letter called MAP's request for an investigation "reckless" and based on "flimsy factual underpinning." They cite B&C's report as the sole basis for the MAP claim, though MAP's Andrew Schwartzman, who wrote the FCC, said it was based on several similar accounts.
The FCC is in day 291 of its review of the merger of Adelphia and currently has a split commission, two Republicans and two Democrats, as it has had for the last year.