Will FCC Sunset Murdoch Merger Terms?


Rupert Murdoch won't get his hands on DirecTV Inc. without some kind of conditions, but the battle raging now within the Federal Communications Commission is this: How long should the conditions last?

The FCC is expected to force Murdoch to go to arbitration with large cable companies and EchoStar Communications Corp. if he tries to withhold programming or extract exorbitant license fees for his cable networks.

But because market conditions change, agency officials are considering attaching sunsets to various terms of their merger order, sources said.

Letting merger conditions dissolve on their own is not unprecedented. For example, the Federal Trade Commission's December 2000 conditions on America Online Inc.’s merger with Time Warner Inc. are set to expire after five years.

Earlier this year, in a ruling requested by Time Warner, the FCC lifted an a merger condition that barred the company from deploying advanced instant-messaging services prior to allowing its customers to interoperate with competing advanced-IM providers.