FCC in No Hurry on DBS Merger


EchoStar Communications Corp. got some bad merger news Wednesday when the
Federal Communications Commission declined to expedite review of its new merger
proposal with DirecTV Inc. parent Hughes Electronics Corp.

In a public notice, the FCC announced that the formal cutoff date for filing
comments on the new merger plan is Jan. 21. That also happens to be the date
when Hughes reportedly may walk away from the deal and insist on a $600 million
breakup fee.

When EchoStar and Hughes filed their amended merger proposal Nov. 27, they
told the FCC that because of the Jan. 21 deadline, "only expedited action can
secure meaningful relief for the parties and for consumers."

In the notice, the FCC recounted its reason for rejecting the merger in
October and enumerated changes to the merger proposed by the companies. But the
agency did not indicate why it would keep the record open until Jan. 21.

"EchoStar is willing to extend applicable termination dates in our contract
to make allowances for the FCC comment period," spokesman Marc Lumpkin said. "We
will read the comments and respond accordingly."

"Both GM [Hughes parent General Motors Corp.] and Hughes are not waiving any
provisions in the merger agreement," Hughes spokesman Richard Dore