Daley Bucks Merger-Review Bills

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Washington-U.S. Commerce secretary William Daley has told congressional leaders he opposes legislation that would limit the Federal Communications Commission's review of telecommunications mergers.

Various bills would place time limits on FCC merger reviews and restrict the agency's ability to impose post-merger conditions on parties seeking the agency's approval.

" 'Shot-clock' time limits may not give the [FCC] sufficient time to conduct a thorough public-

interest analysis," Daley said in a May 4 letter to several House and Senate lawmakers. "This approach could also limit any flexibility that parties may need to amend applications to address particular concerns, deficiencies, or changing circumstances."

Time limits, he added, might force the commission to reject mergers "that would otherwise be approved if the parties were afforded sufficient time to address public-interest concerns."

Daley said the FCC's merger-review role is different from the roles played by the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, and it ought to be preserved.

He added that the FCC has an affirmative duty to ensure that a merger will promote competition and the public interest, while the DOJ and the FTC rely on antitrust laws to determine whether a merger will have any anti-competitive effects.

FCC authority to place conditions on mergers is important, Daley added, because the agency needs to protect the public interest on such issues as "national security, law enforcement, cross-ownership, local competition and universal service."

The FCC has approved Viacom Inc.'s application to buy CBS Corp. for $38 billion. But it gave Viacom one year to dispose of United Paramount Network and to reduce its broadcast-station-ownership level to 35 percent of TV households nationally.

The commission is also expected to act soon on AT & T Corp.'s $56.4 billion merger with MediaOne Group Inc. The FCC's Cable Services Bureau has recommended that AT & T divest its stake in Time Warner Entertainment or Liberty Media Group.

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