Media Access Project (MAP) has written the FCC to ask its General Counsel whether the commission has violated ex parte rules in its consideration of the Adelphia acquisition by Time Warner and Comcast.
The letter stems from a press conference Friday in which FCC Chairman Kevin Martin talked to reporters about a variety of subjects. MAP says a number of press accounts, including B&C's, reported that Martin "implied that he had been asked to defer action on the Adelphia matter at the request of certain parties."
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."
MAP says that any communications relating to merger timing are "presentations" and should show up on a list of disclosed communications about the transaction. If such exist, MAP can't find them and wants access to them "in sufficient time for other parties to have a meaningful opportunity to comment on any previously undisclosed communications."
Such communications are allowed in so-called "permit-but-disclose" proceedings, including the Adelphia deal, but the "disclose" part requires a summary of those communications be placed in the public record.
MAP represents several groups with concerns about the merger.