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FCC Chairman: Agency Has No Plans to Review Time Warner-AT&T Merger

Variety logo Variety 2/27/2017 Ted Johnson
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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said that he doesn’t expect the agency to review AT&T’s merger with Time Warner, leaving approval of the deal to the Justice Department.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Pai said that because the transaction will involve no license transfers, the merger would not come before the FCC. Last week, Time Warner said that it would sell its sole broadcast station, WPCH in Atlanta, to Meredith Broadcasting for $70 million.

“That is the regulatory hook for FCC review. My understanding is that the deal won’t be presented to the commission.” Pai’s remarks came at the Mobile World Congress on Monday.

AT&T and Time Warner have said that they did not expect to apply for a transfer of licenses. The FCC reviews transactions to determine if they are in the public interest. That is a much wider net than Justice Department scrutiny, which examines whether transactions comply with antitrust law.

President Donald Trump said during the campaign that he opposed the merger, but there has been some expectation among analysts that the administration’s position has softened toward major transactions. Trump has made CNN, a unit of Time Warner, a frequent target for criticism, labelling the network “fake news.”

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson met with Trump during his presidential transition period, but the company said that the merger was not discussed. Instead, they talked about jobs and the economy.

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