FCC Releases Modified Protective Orders in Merger Reviews

Allowing Outside Parties to View Contracts, Mindful of Public Rights
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The FCC has released the modified protective orders for the Comcast/Time Warner Cable and AT&T/DirecTV merger reviews.

Those orders circumscribe access to sensitive or proprietary documents by outside parties.

The Media Bureau modified them following complaints by content companies about the FCC allowing them to be widely viewed and the full commission, on a straight party line vote, upheld the bureau Monday (Nov. 10).

Content companies including CBS, Fox, and others, challenged the initial protective orders, don't think the modifications solve the problem, and have taken the FCC to court seeking a stay of the decision to make program contracts and documents related to how those contracts were struck available.

The FCC concedes disclosure of some of that info could result in "substantial harm," but also said it is "mindful of the right of the public to participate in this proceeding in a meaningful way."

"We conclude that the procedures we adopt in this Modified Joint Protective Order give appropriate access to the public while protecting competitively sensitive information from improper disclosure, and that the procedures thereby serve the public interest," the Media Bureau said in releasing the modified orders.

To check them out, go here for Comcast/TWC and here for AT&T/DirecTV.

If the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia does not approve a stay, the FCC will start making those programming contracts available to third parties starting at 3 p.m. on Nov. 17. There are hundreds of individuals and groups lined up to peruse them.