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Issues Memorandum for March 1, 2000 Transactions Team Public Forum on Streamlining FCC Review of Applications Relating to Mergers


In the years since the Telecommunications Act of 1996, companies holding licenses or authorizations from the Federal Communications Commission have combined with one another or with other companies at an unprecedented pace. Such combinations require Commission review under Sections 310(d) and/or 214(a) of the Communications Act, as well as implementing regulations, related statutory provisions, and Executive Orders and Treaties. In an era of rapid technological change that creates both great opportunities and great uncertainties, and in a regulatory environment committed to substantial reliance on market mechanisms, this wave of consolidation has generated intense public interest, and, at times, controversy.

The FCC has now had several years of experience dealing with the dramatic increase in the transfer of licenses and authorizations related to mergers and acquisitions—small, large, and enormous. The Commission has developed and applied its public interest standard in the contexts of these merger-related applications on a case-by-case basis.

Chairman Kennard has recently committed additional resources to meet the substantial demands placed by this flood of applications on the Commission and its Bureaus and to make the process for reviewing applications relating to these transactions efficient, transparent, and predictable. A Transactions Team in the Office of the General Counsel is assisting the various Bureaus in their review of transaction-related license transfers and changes in authorizations. This memorandum highlights the issues being addressed and the steps being taken by the Team and the Bureaus in a coordinated effort to achieve these goals.

Creating and Publishing Timeline:

The accompanying Timeline outlines the general stages of FCC review in the most difficult and complex cases and the time required to perform them. It makes the process more transparent by giving the public a general roadmap of the process, together with time limits. The Timeline also provides a yardstick for measuring how the FCC is doing in particular cases, and, when applied to a particular pending case, would allow the parties and the public to see what has been done, predict what is coming, and identify the reasons for any departure from the announced path.

The Timeline at this point is, of course, general, and not specific to particular types of licenses or authorizations or to the circumstances of particular cases. It is not intended as an inflexible deadline. But it does reflect the agency’s experience with a number of recent transactions, its estimates of what can be accomplished, and a commitment to either meet the announced schedules or explain promptly how and why they are being adjusted in a particular case.

Establishing Web Site:

By March 1, the Transactions Team expects to have up and running a site on the World Wide Web, accessible by a link from the FCC Home Page. The site is intended to become a central location for the public to access information relating to the FCC’s review of applications relating to mergers and similar transactions. Initially, the site will provide copies of the Proposed Timeline, this Memorandum, relevant public notices, several links to related FCC resources, and an e-mail address for comments and suggestions. In the near future, it will contain instructions for filing applications with the various Bureaus and offices, procedures for filing public comments or petitions to deny in pending proceedings, and instructions and links to obtain public record information on pending transactions, including specific links to the dockets containing the filings relating to major transactions.

Examining and Experimenting with Procedures:

There are a variety of different procedural requirements in the statutes and rules applicable to various kinds of licenses and authorizations, but there remains substantial flexibility to design the mix of procedures that will best further the goals of efficient, transparent, and predictable review while reaching sound substantive results and allowing adequate and fair opportunities for participation by the applicants and other members of the public.

The proposed timeline suggests the types of procedures that the FCC has generally used in reviewing applications. Examples of areas for improvement include the following: