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Media Bureau Denies Request for Extension of Initial Pleading Deadline

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Released: August 28, 2014
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Federal Communications Commission

DA 14-1253

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, D.C. 20554

In the Matter of

)

)

Applications of

)

MB Docket No. 14-90

)

AT&T Inc. and

)

DIRECTV

)

)

For Consent To Assign or Transfer Control of

)

Licenses and Authorizations

)

ORDER

Adopted: August 28, 2014

Released: August 28, 2014

By the Chief, Media Bureau:

1.

On August 7, 2014, the Commission released a Public Notice seeking comment on the

applications of AT&T Inc. (“AT&T”) and DIRECTV (collectively, the “Applicants”) to transfer control

of Commission licenses and other authorizations.1

The Public Notice seeks comment on the joint

applications submitted by AT&T and DIRECTV on June 11, 2014, to effectuate AT&T’s acquisition of

all the assets of DIRECTV and its subsidiaries and related entities.2

The Public Notice established

September 16, 2014, as the deadline for filing comments and petitions to deny; October 16, 2014, as the

deadline for filing responses to comments and oppositions to petitions; and November 5, 2014, as the

deadline for filing replies to responses or oppositions.3

On August 15, 2014, Public Knowledge and the

Community Broadband Networks Initiative, Institute for Local Self-Reliance (“Petitioners”) filed a

Motion for Extension of Time to File Petitions and Comments (the “Motion”) pursuant to Section 1.46 of

the Commission’s rules.4

In their Motion, Petitioners ask the Commission to extend the filing deadline

for the initial comments and petitions to deny for 30 days.5

On August 18, 2014, the Applicants filed a

Joint Opposition to Motion for Extension of Time (the “Opposition”).6

For the reasons stated below,

consistent with the Commission’s policy that “extensions of time shall not be routinely granted,”7 we

deny the Petitioners’ Motion.

1 See Commission Seeks Comment on Applications of AT&T Inc. and DIRECTV to Transfer Control of FCC

Licensees and Other Authorizations, Public Notice, MB Docket No. 14-90, DA 14-1129 (rel. Aug. 7, 2014) (“Public

Notice”).

2 Id. at 1.

3 Id. at 1.

4 See Public Knowledge and the Community Broadband Networks Initiative, Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s

Motion for Extension of Time to File Petitions and Comments, MB Docket No. 14-90 (filed Aug. 15, 2014); 47

C.F.R. § 1.46.

5 Motion at 1.

6 See AT&T Inc. and DIRECTV’s Joint Opposition to Motion for Extension of Time, MB Docket No. 14-90 (filed

Aug. 18, 2014).

7 47 C.F.R. § 1.46(a).

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Federal Communications Commission

DA 14-1253

2.

In their Motion, Petitioners assert that a 30-day extension of the initial filing deadline is

necessary to allow sufficient time for the parties to “provide the Commission with meaningful input” and

to “fully develop the record in this proceeding.”8

In support of their Motion, Petitioners argue that an

extension is needed given the novelty of the issues involved and the fact that this pleading cycle coincides

with the deadlines of other related proceedings, such as the Comcast-Time Warner Cable Transaction and

the Open Internet proceeding.9

Specifically, Petitioners assert that the outcome of the AT&T-DIRECTV

Transaction will likely affect, and be affected by, the outcomes of these other proceedings, and therefore,

the records developed in those proceedings are essential to informing the record of the AT&T-DIRECTV

Transaction.10

Moreover, Petitioners note that these other proceedings are of interest to many of the same

organizations, some of which have limited resources and personnel. Accordingly, Petitioners argue, an

extension of time would alleviate these burdens on Petitioners and these other organizations without

prejudicing the Applicants or significantly delaying the AT&T-DIRECTV Transaction.11

3.

In their Opposition, Applicants argue Petitioners have not presented any justification that

would warrant an extension of time under Commission precedent.12

Applicants contend that the initial

comment period provided by the Public Notice exceeds the initial comment periods provided in a number

of other large and complex transactions.13

Applicants point out that the deadline for filing initial

comments and petitions to deny will occur nearly four months after the AT&T-DIRECTV Transaction

was announced and more than three months after the Applicants filed their Public Interest Statement with

the Commission.14

This period of several months, Applicants state, provides ample time for Petitioners

“to access information about the transaction and provide meaningful input.”15

Furthermore, Applicants

note that Petitioners have not yet sought access to Applicants’ confidential submissions, a factor that,

Applicants point out, the Commission has cited in denying similar requests.16

Additionally, Applicants

argue that they are entitled to expeditious review of their applications, and that the requested extension

would cause significant, unjustified delays in the merger review process, while also straining Commission

resources to complete its review within the 180-day transaction timeline.17

Finally, Applicants contend

that, even if the outcome of the AT&T-DIRECTV Transaction were to affect related proceedings before

the Commission, the timing of these other proceedings does not justify an extension of time.18

8 Motion at 1.

9 Id. at 1-3.

10 Id. at 2-3.

11 Id. at 3.

12 Opposition at 1.

13 Id. at 3.

14 Id. The Applicants announced the AT&T-DIRECTV Transaction on May 18, 2014. Id. at 2.

15 Id. at 3.

16 Id. at 3. Applicants point out that more than two months have elapsed since the Commission adopted the June 11,

2014, Joint Protective Order establishing the process for accessing Applicants’ confidential submissions. Id. at 1.

See also Applications of AT&T Inc. and DIRECTV for Consent to Assign or Transfer Control of Licenses and

Authorizations, Joint Protective Order, MB Docket 14-90, 29 FCC Rcd 6047 (2014).

17 Opposition at 3-4.

18 Id. at 4. Applications also assert Petitioners failed to provide any evidence that the AT&T-DIRECTV Transaction

raises novel issues. Id.

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Federal Communications Commission

DA 14-1253

4.

The Commission encourages the widest possible public participation and has a strong

interest in ensuring that the record is complete and fully developed.19

To that end, the Public Notice has

established a 40-day period for the filing of initial comments and petitions to deny.20

This initial filing

period is consistent with the Commission’s review of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable Transaction and

the Comcast-NBCU transaction, and longer than the pleading cycles provided in some other media-

related transaction proceedings in recent years.21

The Public Notice also provides for a 30-day period for

responses to comments and oppositions to petitions, and a 20-day period for replies to responses and

oppositions.22

5.

We recognize the complexity of the proposed transaction. For this reason, we have

established a relatively lengthy three-month pleading cycle, consisting of three rounds of pleadings, initial

comments and petitions to deny, responses and oppositions, and replies to responses and oppositions,

which, together with the Commission’s ex parte process and the opportunity for parties to comment on

the Applicants’ responses to information requests, provides interested parties with substantial time and

multiple opportunities to participate in the proceeding.23

6.

We are not persuaded that the timing of other important proceedings before the

Commission is a valid reason for delaying the schedule of the AT&T-DIRECTV merger review. This

merger review is not subordinate in priority to the other ongoing proceedings listed in Petitioners’

Motion.24

It is often the case that potential petitioners or commenters, such as Petitioners, have interests

in multiple Commission proceedings, and as explained in prior proceedings, the Commission’s review

cannot be dictated by those parties’ allocation of their time and resources.25

In addition, we find the

19 See Applications of Comcast Corporation, General Electric Company and NBC Universal, Inc. for Consent to

Assign Licenses or Transfer Control of Licensees, Order, MB Docket No. 10-56, 25 FCC Rcd 3101, 3102, ¶ 4 (MB

2010) (“Comcast-NBCU March 26, 2010 Extension Denial Order”).

20 See Public Notice at 1.

21 See Commission Seeks Comment on Applications of Comcast Corporation, Time Warner Cable Inc., Charter

Communications, Inc., and SpinCo to Assign and Transfer Control of FCC Licensees and Other Authorizations,

Public Notice, MB Docket No. 14-57, DA 14-986 (rel. July 10, 2014) ; Commission Seeks Comment on Applications

of Comcast Corporation, General Electric Company, and NBC Universal, Inc., to Assign and Transfer Control of

FCC Licenses, Public Notice, MB Docket No. 10-56, 25 FCC Rcd 2651 (2010). Prior to the Comcast-NBCU

merger review, the initial pleading cycles of the most recent media-related mergers allowed approximately 30 days

for comments and petitions and 15 days for responsive filings. See, e.g., Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite

Radio Holdings Inc. Seek Approval to Transfer Control of FCC Authorizations and Licenses, Public Notice, MB

Docket No. 07-57, 22 FCC Rcd 10327 (2007); News Corporation, The DIRECTV Group, Inc. and Liberty Media

Corporation Seek Approval to Transfer Control of FCC Authorizations and Licenses, Public Notice, MB Docket

No. 07-18, 22 FCC Rcd 3493 (2007); Adelphia Communications Corporation, Debtor-In-Possession, Time Warner

Inc. and Comcast Corporation Seek Approval to Transfer Control and/or Assign FCC Authorizations And Licenses,

Public Notice, MB Docket No. 05-192, 20 FCC Rcd 10051 (2005). In Comcast-Time Warner-Adelphia, the

Commission granted a 16-day extension to the 30-day initial filing period. Applications for Consent to the

Assignment and/or Transfer of Control of Licenses, Adelphia Communications Corporation, (And Subsidiaries,

Debtors-In-Possession), Assignors, to Time Warner Cable Inc. (Subsidiaries), Assignees; Adelphia Communications

Corporation, (and Subsidiaries, Debtors-In-Possession), Assignors and Transferors, to Comcast Corporation

(Subsidiaries), Assignees and Transferees; Comcast Corporation, Transferor, to Time Warner Inc., Transferee;

Time Warner Inc., Transferor to Comcast Corporation, Transferee, Order, MB Docket No. 05-192, 20 FCC Rcd

11145 (2005).

22 See Public Notice at 1.

23 Petitions to Deny must be filed by the initial pleading deadline, September 16, 2014. Id.

24 Motion at 2-3.

25 See Comcast-NBCU March 26, 2010 Extension Denial Order, 25 FCC Rcd at 3103, ¶ 5.

3

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Federal Communications Commission

DA 14-1253

assertion that no party will be harmed by a 30-day extension of the filing deadline to be similarly

unpersuasive. The Commission has an obligation to review proposed transactions as expeditiously as

possible, regardless of whether or not delays in the process would result in harm to a party.26

Thus, we do

not find that, under the particular circumstances here, an extension of the pleading cycle is justified in this

case.

7.

Accordingly, Petitioners’ Motion for Extension of Time to File Petitions and Comments

in the above-captioned matter is hereby DENIED. This action is taken pursuant to authority delegated by

Section 0.283 of the Commission’s Rules.27

FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

William T. Lake

Chief, Media Bureau

26 See id.; Applications of Comcast Corporation, Time Warner Cable Inc., Charter Communications, Inc., and

SpinCo for Consent to Assign or Transfer Control of Licensees and Authorizations, Order, MB Docket No. 14-57,

DA 14-1226, ¶ 7 (MB, rel. Aug. 22, 2014).

27 47 C.F.R. § 0.283.

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