Video Report Yields Docket Duplication


The Federal Communications Commission’s 19th Video Competition Report docket is in definitely un-rare form.

The FCC’s request for comment on its next report has drawn a crowd of identical form emails using the docket to attack the AT&T-Time Warner merger, which is likely in the home stretch of its government antitrust review.

The letters all point to then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s characterization of the deal as putting “too much power in too few hands” and suggest that AT&T corporate interests could shape news coverage. Time Warner owns CNN. (AT&T executives, including CEO Randall Stephenson last week, have said they will not interfere with Time Warner’s culture or change CNN management.)

“Keep the president’s promise to protect us from big corporate media and STOP THE AT&T-TIME WARNER MERGER. — Americans Against Media Monopolies,” reads one identical email after another.

The problem is, the FCC is not reviewing the deal. That task is confined to the Justice Department, which is conducting a strictly antitrust review, thanks to the way the deal was structured to avoid any FCC licenses changing hands. Had licenses been involved, it would have triggered a broader public-interest review by the commission. The FCC is almost certainly consulting with Justice as the expert agency, but the call is the Justice Department’s alone.

It was not clear just how many of the more than 15,000 filings in the video competition report docket came via that form email — The Wire stopped counting at 200 screens’ worth — but the most recent 5,000 comments in the docket were all that same, one-paragraph, attack on the deal.

The FCC has previously had issues with bulk filings — including bot-driven ones — in its net-neutrality docket.