DirecTV OK May Be Soon

2/08/2008 7:00 PM Eastern

Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin said Friday he wants the agency to approve Liberty Media’s request to acquire about 40% of DirecTV from News Corp. at the agency’s Feb. 26 public meeting here.

Martin, noting that approval could occur prior to Feb. 26, said the FCC would move forward without necessarily waiting for the Justice Department to finish its review, which has focused on the competitive impact of Liberty chairman John Malone’s affiliation with a cable system in Puerto Rico and DirecTV.

Liberty Global owns Liberty Cablevision of Puerto Rico, which serves 119,000 island subscribers, and competes with DirecTV Latin America, which is 86% owned by DirecTV. Malone is chairman and holds a 24.1% voting interest in Liberty Global.

The Liberty-DirecTV-News Corp. transaction has lingered at the FCC for 351 days, even though the agency operates under an informal 180-day merger review timetable.

Martin said FCC merger conditions applied to News when it acquired effective control of DirecTV in late 2003 would continue to apply to the company.

One condition, which sunsets in January 2010, requires News to enter “commercial arbitration for disputes over retransmission consent of its broadcast stations and carriage of its regional sports networks.”

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