Parties Push For Expedited Briefing on Contract Challenge

Programmers, Broadcasters Support Speeding Briefing Schedule, Silent on Oral Argument

Everybody involved has agreed to ask a federal court to expedite its review, or at least part of that review, of a challenge by some major programmers and broadcasters to the FCC's decision to make merger documents--specifically programming/retrans deal documents and work product--available to third parties.

That came in a request for expediting briefing and oral argument filed Wednesday (Nov. 26) with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. They have proposed that petitioner and intervenor briefs be due Dec. 15; respondent briefs Jan. 2 and reply briefs Jan. 13.

The FCC, joined by Comcast, Time Warner Cable, AT&T, DIRECTV, DISH, Charter, and the American Cable Association (respondents and their intervenors) told the court they wanted expedited briefing and oral argument. CBS, Scripps, Disney, Time Warner, 21st Century Fox, Univision, Viacom and the National Association of Broadcasters only consented to the expedited briefing schedule while taking no position on speeding up oral argument.

CBS et. al were the major programmers who petitioned the court to review the FCC decision, and NAB joined as an intervenor on the programmer side.

Those programmers had said they would consult with the FCC about an expedited briefing schedule, and Friday's filing was the product of those conversations.

The court has stayed the FCC's decision to make the contracts available to third parties (, while pointing out that the FCC is free to review them.

Programmers and broadcasters don't want their contracts and e-mails and memos related to negotiations shared with hundreds of outside parties with an interest in the outcome of the Comcast/TWC and AT&T/DirecTV mergers. Those companies joined the FCC in opposing the court stay because it could prolong the FCC's review of their deals, something the FCC already signaled would likely happen if the stay were imposed.