Appeals court blocks FCC from sharing program-deal info

Siding with a group of major programmers, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. has blocked the FCC from publicly disclosing information about deals between pay-TV operators and networks as part of its ongoing merger reviews.

The Federal Communications Commission planned to make information about these deals public on a limited basis as part of its ongoing reviews of Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA$45 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and AT&T's (NYSE: T) $49 billion acquisition of DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV).

Content owners including Viacom, Fox, Time Warner Inc. and CBS argued that such disclosures would harm their bargaining positions in future negotiations. The court agreed, ruling Friday that the FCC could still conduct its reviews without a public disclosure of the data in question.

"The agency has access to the relevant documents at issue in this matter and can continue to evaluate the proposed merger during the stay," court documents explaining the ruling read.

"The stay order deals with a procedural matter that has never had anything to do with the substance of our transaction" and the FCC can continue its review, Sena Fitzmaurice, a spokeswoman for Philadelphia-based Comcast, said in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg.

For more:
- read this Bloomberg story
- read this Re/code story

Related links:
Top cable companies support FCC's disclosre of programming deals
Appeals court stays FCC's plan to disclose programmer's contracts with pay-TV operators
FCC set to unveil pay-TV programming deals on Nov. 17
FCC denies programmers' plea to limit document access during merger reviews

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