FCC Near End of DBS-Merger Review


Newport, R.I. -- Federal Communications Commission staff is nearing
completion of its review of the merger between EchoStar Communications Corp. and
DirecTV Inc. parent Hughes Electronics Corp., an agency official said here

Kenneth Ferree, chief of the FCC's Media Bureau, said he expects to transmit
merger recommendations to the four commissioners within four to six weeks.

Informally, the agency has planned to review major mergers within 180 days.
The FCC suspended its review of the DBS merger March 7 -- day 77 -- because
EchoStar and DirecTV failed to produce certain documents. On July 23, the
commission lifted the suspension.

In addition to the FCC, the $26 billion merger requires approval by the
Department of Justice.

In general, Ferree said, market conditions have prompted the FCC to speed up
its review of a number of hot media issues.

'We are sort of on a deregulatory track right now. We need to speed that up
to allow companies to operate more efficiently and to organize in ways that may
make more business sense for them,' said Ferree, a panelist at the New England
Cable & Telecommunications Association convention here.

Ferree said he expects the FCC to conclude its cable-modem review by the
first quarter of 2003 instead of the second quarter. Cable-ownership issues, he
added, are on track for completion in November and December.

The agency has been reviewing the merger between AT&T Broadband and
Comcast Corp. for 126 days.

Meeting the 180-day deadline for that deal just got more complicated, Ferree
said, because AOL Time Warner Inc. and AT&T Corp. recently agreed to
temporarily suspend the registration-rights process concerning AT&T's 25.6
percent stake in Time Warner Entertainment. Comcast has promised to divest the
TWE stake if the merger is approved.