Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell named a nine-person
team Thursday to lead the review of the proposed merger between EchoStar
Communications Corp. and DirecTV Inc.
Acting before the $25.8 billion merger proposal has been submitted, Powell
announced that W. Kenneth Ferree, chief of the Cable Services Bureau and the
future Media Bureau, would head the team to scrub a deal that would reduce the
direct-broadcast satellite market from two major players to just one.
'The team I have assembled includes experts from different FCC offices and
bureaus that deal with areas and issues relevant to these companies, and I am
confident that the review will be thorough, fair and timely. Given the
significant concentration that would result from this transaction, it will be
rigorously scrutinized by this team and the commission,' Powell said in a
Also named: Jim Bird, senior counsel in the Office of the General Counsel,
and David Sappington, the FCC's chief economist, as senior team leaders.
Powell named six other FCC officials to work under Ferree, Bird and
Sappington: Barbara Esbin, associate bureau chief in the CSB; Julius Knapp,
deputy bureau chief in the Office of Engineering and Technology; JoAnn Lucanik
of the satellite division in the International Bureau; Royce Dickens Sherlock,
deputy chief of the policy division in the CSB; Donald Stockdale, an economist
in the Office of Plans and Policy; and Doug Webbink, an economist in the IB.
In addition to the FCC, the merger will need the approval of the Department
of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission.
Merging companies seeking FCC approval have to demonstrate that the
combination is in the public interest. The FTC and the DOJ have the legal burden
of showing that the deal would lessen competition.
EchoStar chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen said the deal would promote the
public interest by spurring competition to cable, expanding the provision of
local TV signals in local markets and helping to launch broadband access in
Ergen stressed that the merger should not be viewed solely as a merger
between DBS rivals, but as a combination occurring within the broader
multichannel-video programming-distribution market, which includes both DBS and