FCC Silences Staff on DBS Merger


Until further notice, members of the Federal Communications Commission and
the agency's 2,000 employees are barred from discussing the proposed merger
between EchoStar Communications Corp. and DirecTV Inc. parent Hughes Electronics

On Oct. 10, the FCC rejected the merger as anti-competitive and assigned it
for hearing before an administrative law judge. On Oct. 18, the commission
released a lengthy order explaining its decision.

'I can't comment on anything. I can't comment about what we did. I've been
told [by the general counsel's office] that we can't comment on anything,'
Republican FCC member Kathleen Abernathy told a reporter Monday. 'I know, it's
pretty frustrating for you guys.'

The blackout could last a few weeks if EchoStar and DirecTV decide to call
off the merger or several months if the firms decide to fight on before the

An FCC spokeswoman said she was even prohibited from answering questions
about the potential inaccuracy of statements within the merger order.

For example, the merger order stated that Cablevision Systems Corp. 'decided
not to carry' Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network, referring to the
battle between the MSO and the sports channel run by Leo J. Hindery Jr.

The FCC did not mention that Cablevision offered YES its own channel and the
right to set its own price but that YES declined the offer.