Media consolidation critic Andy Schwartzman, president of the Media Access Project, called the Federal Trade Commission's approval of the Adelphia sale to Time Warner and Comcast Tuesday no surprise, but pointed hopefully to the dissenting commissioners' statement "almost begging" the FCC to apply conditions.
While not opposing the merger, Democrat Jon Leibowitz and independent Pamela Jones Harbour suggested the FCC, which must still sign off on the merger, could follow its own lead and apply conditions similar to those it put in place when approving News Corp.'s purchase of DBS company DirecTV.
The commission conditioned that deal on News Corp. offering its multichannel video services on a non-exclusive basis and submitting to arbitration on rights to regional sports networks, another key concern of the FTC commissioners.
Schwartzman said he expected that clear message from the dissenting FTC voices to encourage FCC Democrats to seek conditions as well.
That could prompt FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to wait until a third Republican commissioner is seated before bringing the merger to a vote. Currently, the commission is tied at 2-2, though Schwartzman said he does not know whether Martin is "intractably" opposed to putting some kind of conditions on the merger.