Dish says Charter-TWC merger 'not in public interest'; AT&T and Verizon look to limit Malone's control

With Thursday marking the final day for public commenting on the proposed merger of Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR), Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and Bright House Networks, a coalition representing AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and other telecom companies asked the FCC to impose specific limits as a condition of the deal's approval.

Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH), meanwhile, asked for the cable merger to be rejected outright, declaring it "not in the public interest."

The combination of Charter, TWC and Bright House would be the nation's third largest video services supplier with 17.2 million subscribers, trailing only AT&T (26.2 million after its acquisition of DirecTV) and Comcast (22.3 million).

USTelecom, a group representing wireless companies including AT&T and Verizon, expressed concern to the FCC about Charter's largest shareholder, John Malone, who also has interests spanning Liberty Media, Discovery Networks and Starz. The group wants the FCC to impose limits on Malone's control over New Charter. 

Separately, Dish complained about a variety of factors related to the proposed transaction. "Despite the very small fraction of highly confidential documents that Dish's counsel has been afforded the opportunity to read to date, the facts that have emerged through the applicants' relevant submissions are every bit as troubling as those that doomed the proposals of the Comcast/TWC merger," Dish said.

Among its many criticisms, Dish accused Charter of "not providing inadequate documentation of projected operational efficiencies," and "refusing to acknowledge the competitive stance of online video distributors [OVDs]."

To the latter point, Charter spokesman Justin Venech told FierceCable, "There is no friendlier MSO to OVDs than Charter. Our minimum broadband speed is 60 Mbps, we don't have data-caps, and we don't charge modem lease fees. Also, Netflix, which strongly opposed the Comcast merger, supports the approval of the Charter transactions."

Meanwhile, in its filing, the National Association of Broadcasters asked the FCC to hold off on making a decision on the merger until it completes its latest reviews of the broadcast ownership rules. 

In addition to commenting on online video distributors, Charter's Venech also released an official statement from the MSO: "As the official comment period closes, we are gratified by the support New Charter has received to date from programmers, diversity organizations, business leaders and members of the communities we serve. New Charter's commitments to provide faster broadband service without data caps, modem fees or contracts, industry leading interconnection policies, and invest in customer service by returning jobs to the U.S. put the transaction squarely in the public interest. We look forward to continuing to work with regulators and interested parties to achieve a timely approval."

Indeed, an African-American-targeted programmer called TV One added its support to Charter's transactions. "Charter's decision to increase TV One's carriage on more widely penetrated tiers, and therefore more affordable programming packages for African-American consumers in key urban markets, demonstrates its commitment to offering diverse and independent programming," TV One said.

For more:
- read this Bloomberg story
- read this Dish Network announcement
- read this TV One filing to the FCC_ read this NAB filing to the FCC

Related articles:
Charter's CEO on TWC, Bright House mergers: 'Everyone has had their say. We're ready to close'
FCC examining Malone's holdings amid Charter-TWC review
Charter continues cable's big Q3, adds 12K video subscribers
Analysts: Charter 80%-85% likely to complete TWC, Bright House purchases

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