Commission OKs DIRECTV transfer of control to Liberty Media

The FCC approved the transfer of control of DIRECTV to Liberty Media Feb. 25 after concluding that the public interest benefits of the transfer outweighed the potential harms and the move was consistent with its rules.

As part of the transaction, Liberty Media and majority DIRECTV stakeholder News Corp. will sever their ownership interests with each other, decreasing media consolidation and reducing vertical integration.

The Order requires that Liberty and DIRECTV abide by program access, program carriage, Regional Sports Network (RSN) arbitration and retransmission consent arbitration conditions modeled on similar conditions imposed in 2003, when the commission approved the transfer of DIRECTV from Hughes to News Corp. It also requires ownership interests connecting DIRECTV-Puerto Rico and Liberty Cablevision of Puerto Rico, which will be under common control as a result of the transaction, to be severed within a year.

Both commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps expressed disappointment that the authorization does not require DIRECTV to provide local-into-local service via satellite to all 210 TV markets “within a reasonable period of time,” in the words of Copps.

“Such a condition would have served the public interest by ensuring that consumers in rural states from North Dakota to Michigan to Maine have access to the news and public safety information provided by local broadcast stations,” Copps wrote in comments released with the Memorandum Opinion and Order.