Appeals Court throws out FCC request for programming contracts

On Friday, a Federal Appeals Court threw out the Federal Communications Commission's request that some major TV programmers offer their contracts to third parties for comment. This could affect AT&T Inc.'s proposed acquisition of El Segundo satellite TV giant DirecTV.

The case is related to media companies together with Viacom Inc., CBS Corp. and Walt Disney Co. against the FCC since it was reviewing AT&T's deal for DirecTV. The FCC said that third parties could be allowed to review the TV channel owners' contracts with the pay TV providers and put forward comment for the record.

These documents include details like the costs paid by distributors for carriage of TV channels, and rules for making content available online. Media companies were concerned that competitors could come to know about their valuable trade secrets. They also worry that the FCC's order didn't give them much chance to disapprove which parties would be granted access.

According to the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals' decision, "We share petitioners' apprehension about a process that puts tremendous pressure on the commission, the parties, and this court to get their ducks in a row in a short time. In our view, the commission has failed to make its case".

According to The Wall Street Journal, AT&T's proposed acquisition of DirecTV has led to worry at the FCC and Justice Department than the Comcast-TWC merger. Informal 180-day period in FCC for reviewing the AT&T-DirecTV merger has been broken in proceedings since mid-March, pending a court decision on the FCC's request for information regarding contract.

An FCC spokesman said that they are analyzing the opinion now and are thinking about the options available to the Commission.