FCC Chairman Ajit Pai had told the Wall Street Journal in an interview on Monday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that he did not foresee a role for the FCC on the takeover and his comments were confirmed to Reuters by FCC spokesman Neil Grace.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is distancing itself from the possible merger of AT&T and Time Warner in a move that might signal the controversial deal will go through at some point in the near future.
The Justice Department is in the process of reviewing the merger, according to a recent letter that was authored by both AT&T and Time Warner, USA Today noted.
Regardless of interagency disagreement about the impact of the move, it was expected as the commission leadership shift after President Donald Trump's election had already indicated rolling back a number of regulations put into place past year when the agency was led by Tom Wheeler.
An indication of the swift reversal of FCC policies by the new chairman was Pai's announcement of the end of an investigation into "zero-rating" or free-data services. Edward Markey, D-Mass gave out a statement, "It's not surprising that AT&T would claim the proposed deal benefits consumers, but we need an objective review ... to truly evaluate how merging two massive companies into one behemoth will benefit my constituents and consumers from coast to coast". The FCC has broad leeway to block a merger it deems is not in the "public interest" and can impose additional conditions. The DOJ, on the other hand, has to actually prove the deal is anti-competitive, which is a taller order. The sale - estimated to be worth around $70 million - was reportedly made for the specific objective of facilitating the conglomerate's merger with AT&T.
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"There will not be a filing with the FCC", Stephenson said earlier this month.
Last week, Time Warner said it plans to sell its only FCC-regulated broadcast station, WPCH-TV in Atlanta - the former WTBS - to Meredith Corp. for $70 million, a move created to ease regulatory concerns.
He warned, however, that "it's not a forgone conclusion that we will fully realize this technological potential". Those will not transfer.
"I think we're excited only because we have a person that finally values broadcasting as part of an overall media mix, and he knows the issues", Donovan said.
On the campaign trail, Trump railed against the merger. AT&T (T) shares fell more than 1%.