Appeals court clears way for AT&T-DirecTV review, throws out FCC order on program contracts

A federal appeals court finally decided a matter that had been bogging down the regulatory reviews of big pay-TV mergers for months. 

According to Reuters, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit threw out an FCC order demanding that pay-TV operators unveil their licensing deals with programming companies. 

The issue resulted in the FCC pausing on numerous occasions review processes for Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA) $45 billion bid for Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), and AT&T's (NYSE: T) proposed $49 billion purchase of DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV).

Of course, the point is now moot for the former, but approval for the AT&T-DirecTV deal is said to be close at hand. 

Last fall, media companies including CBS Corp., Walt Disney Co. and 21st Century Fox challenged the Federal Communications Commission order to release the deal documents, claiming doing so would cause them "irreparable harm."

Writing on behalf of Appeals Court Judge David Tatel, a three-judge panel ruled the order was "substantially and procedurally flawed." It also found that the FCC failed to prove that the information was vitally necessary to its regulatory review processes.

For more:
- read this Reuters story

Related links:
Appeals court stays FCC's plan to disclose programmers' 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