McDowell Mulls AT&T-BellSouth Options

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The Federal Communications Commission's media-ownership forum Monday in Nashville, Tenn., was short at least one member as Republican Robert McDowell decided to remain at FCC headquarters to decide whether to participate in the review of AT&T's $81 billion merger with BellSouth.

McDowell has been legally barred from participating in the merger, leaving four voting members -- two Republicans and two Democrats -- who have failed to agree on merger terms. FCC general counsel Sam Feder, in a letter Friday, gave McDowell permission to vote on the giant telecommunications merger before his one-year ban expires next June.

Just hours before the Nashville forum began, McDowell issued a statement saying that he regretted being absent, but he did not explain why.

"He stayed in town to analyze the general counsel's opinion regarding his potential participation in the AT&T-BellSouth merger proceeding," McDowell spokeswoman Brigid Calamis said.