No AT&T-Time Warner merger review expected -U.S. regulator’s chairman

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By David Shepardson | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON The head of the U.S. Federal
Communications Commission does not expect to review AT&T Inc’s planned $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc
, a spokesman for the agency said on Monday.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai had told the Wall Street Journal in an
interview on Monday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona
that he did not foresee a role for the FCC on the takeover and
his comments were confirmed to Reuters by FCC spokesman Neil
Grace.

Last Thursday, Time Warner said it plans to sell a broadcast
station in Atlanta to Meredith Corp for $70 million, which could
help speed the company’s planned merger with AT&T. Pai declined
to say on Thursday if he would use that transfer to try to
review the broader merger.

In January, AT&T said it expected to be able to bypass the
FCC because it would not seek to transfer any Time Warner
licenses.

About a dozen U.S. senators have urged him to review the
deal.

The station that Time Warner is selling, WPCH-TV in Atlanta,
is its only FCC-regulated broadcast station. It has other, more
minor FCC licenses. Meredith has operated WPCH-TV for Time
Warner since 2011. It was previously know as WTBS.

Time Warner said last month it expected it would only need
the consent of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Justice Department, which is reviewing documents
submitted on the proposed merger, has to prove a proposed deal
harms competition in order to block it. The FCC has broad leeway
to block a merger it deems is not in the “public interest” and
can impose additional conditions.

AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson told CNBC earlier
this month the Justice Department review was ongoing and he
thought the deal would close by the end of the year. “It’s a
clean transaction,” he said.

People briefed on the matter do not expect the Justice
Department to act on the merger until an assistant attorney
general overseeing the anti-trust division is named and
confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

AT&T, which repeatedly clashed with the FCC under President
Barack Obama over major industry regulations, said last year one
benefit to its buying Time Warner is that the programming
company is “lightly regulated compared to much of AT&T’s
existing operations.”



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