While the FCC outlined a range of conditions to make more palatable what it described as a cable merger that was "harmful to the public interest," one influential figure seems to have escaped scrutiny in the agency's scathing approval of "New Charter."
Liberty Media chief John Malone, who said at one point he'd abandon his interests in in Charter (NASDAQ: CHTR) if it interfered with the company's plans to buy Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and Bright House Networks, has no conditions imposed on him at all.
Through the Liberty Broadband unit he controls, Malone will own 18 percent of the combined cable company — an entity that will manifest when the California Public Utilities Commission removes the last regulatory hurdle, which is expected to happen today.
Malone also has the right to select three New Charter board members.
In comments to the FCC critical of the deal, the American Cable Association (ACA) and consumer action group Public Knowledge were among those who asked the agency to scrutinize Malone's holdings.
While Malone also has holdings in programmers ranging from Discovery Networks to Starz to Lionsgate, the FCC said it already has rules in place to govern those companies' negotiations with other pay-TV operators.
"Because New Charter will lack the incentive or ability to withhold or raise prices of affiliated programming, we further find it unnecessary to extend or modify our program access rules or impose other conditions on the licensing of New Charter's affiliated content," the FCC said in its order approving the Charter deals.
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