The government's top antitrust official on Thursday promised to move
quickly to review EchoStar Communications Corp.'s proposed merger with DirecTV
'We're just going to evaluate it on the merits and in the appropriate time
frame. We'll do a good job and we will do it as quickly as we can,' said
assistant attorney general Charles A. James, who heads the Justice Department's
If permitted to combine, EchoStar and DirecTV would serve at least 14.9
million subscribers and control 17 percent of the pay TV market, which includes
Critics maintain the deal would give the new entity 90 percent of the
direct-broadcast satellite industry and leave just one DBS provider for millions
of Americans with no access to cable.
EchoStar chairman Charlie Ergen contends the DBS market cannot be divorced
from the broader pay TV market, and has bet that Justice Department officials
will endorse his view.
In a brief meeting with
reporters, James declined to answer whether cable and DBS providers operate in the
same market or to say whether satellite carriers operate in a discrete
He said he wouldn't answer a 'hypothetical' question.
Both the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission need to
approve the merger. FCC chairman Michael Powell has indicated that he may not
adhere to tradition by postponing agency action until after the DOJ had finished
'There's no reason why we would be upset if [the FCC]
process comes out before us,' James said, adding that Justice would evaluate the
merger on 'nothing but the antitrust merits.'