PUBLIC FORUM: MERGER TRANSACTION PROCESS
MARCH 1, 2000
Establishment of a Merger Transaction Task Force Team
- On January 12, 2000, in response to unprecedented consolidation in the telecommunications industry, FCC Chairman William E. Kennard directed FCC General Counsel Christopher Wright to assess the Commission's merger review process.
- Mr. Wright was tasked with the challenge of how to facilitate the review of major transactions while ensuring that the public interest is met in an era of increasing consolidation and convergence.
- The team includes Senior Counsel Jim Bird as well as senior staff from all FCC units that deal with transactional matters.
Goals of the FCC Merger Transaction Team:
- Maintain & Increase Transparency
Enhance the transparency of the merger transaction process, supplementing public postings and the Electronic Comment Filing System with a web page dedicated to merger transactions.
- Detail the Timeframe
Strive to complete reviews of all transactions within a predictable timeframe, commencing on the date the requests for transfer and/or assignment of authorizations are placed on public notice, and ending no more than 180 days later, unless this time period is suspended due to the applicant's action or inaction.
- Encourage Stakeholders to Facilitate a Streamlined Review
Develop a set of recommended best practices for applicants' requests. These recommendations will consider input from all stakeholders to ensure that this streamlining effort is fully effective in meeting its stated goals. Applicants who follow the best practices will benefit from streamlined, expedited processing.
- Continue Coordination with Other Agencies
Work to enhance communication and efficient use of resources with the Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission, and other agencies with authority over merger transactions.
The FCC's Current System Works and We Are Making It Better
Mergers are treated like any other transfer or assignment application, except that they generally are more complex in nature.
Open and Fair Process
- The applicants, opponents, and the public have the opportunity to voice their views and formally file comments that will be carefully reviewed and considered.
- The process is open and the Commission explains its decisions in writing.
- The Commission's decisions are subject to judicial review.
Consistent Standards of Review
- The public interest standard applies to every transfer of licenses or lines.
- The length of time or the resources necessary to conduct a proper review varies because the circumstances involved in some transactions require more analysis to determine whether the public interest standard is met.
The Number of Transfer and Assignment Applications Filed with the Commission Continues to Increase:
- Some bureaus have experienced extreme growth in the number of applications processed during the past four years and most of the bureaus saw a significant increase in the number of applications processed.
- The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau approved 23,889 license transfers in 1996. In 1999, this number jumped to 40,879.
- The Mass Media Bureau's Audio Division processed 3,869 applications in 1996 and 4,951 in 1999.
- The public tends to focus most of its attention on Common Carrier transfers, which represent some of the smallest numbers of transfers, but are very complex in nature.
Since 1996, the bureaus have processed the following numbers of licenses*:
Cable: 2,453 approved Common Carrier: 11 submitted, 8 approved MMB: Audio: 17,912 submitted, 17,586 approved MMB: Video: 2,028 submitted, 1024 approved WTB: 120,211 approved International: 240 approved
*Some applications were dismissed.