FCC Stops DBS-Merger-Review Clock

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The Federal Communications Commission Thursday suspended review of the merger
between EchoStar Communications Corp. and DirecTV Inc. parent Hughes Electronics
Corp. because the companies failed to meet a Wednesday deadline to surrender
requested business information.

Cable Services Bureau chief W. Kenneth Ferree sent a letter to the companies
Thursday telling them that the 180-day clock on the merger review had been
stopped and that it won't be resumed until the agency receives the
information.

'We expect the [companies] to submit the requested documents and information
as soon as possible,' Ferree's two-page letter said.

On Feb. 4, the FCC issued the information request and mandated a reply by
March 6. On March 5, EchoStar and DirecTV sought an extension until March
21.

'The request for the extension of time is denied,' Ferree said, adding that
the commission is committed to acting on mergers within 180 days.

Ferree also warned the companies that they failed to comply with agency rules
by waiting until March 5 to file a notice of a meeting with FCC officials that
occurred Feb. 21. The commission requires the notice to be filed no later than
the next business day.

Ferree said the companies could be fined if they violate the rule again.

'We turned in thousands of documents [Wednesday], as we had promised, and we
will continue to work as quickly as possible to answer the FCC's information
request,' an EchoStar spokeswoman said.

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