Court prevents FCC from releasing secret TV deals

A top federal appeals court has sided with TV companies arguing that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) cannot force them to reveal details of their business deals.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday ordered that documents detailing the business terms between content companies such as CBS, Walt Disney and Viacom and cable companies can remain secret for the time being, while the FCC reviews a pair of merger proposals. 

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“The agency has access to the relevant documents at issue in this matter and can continue to evaluate the proposed merger during the stay,” the court said.

The FCC had previously ordered the documents to be released to the public, so that people can have information to analyze whether or not regulators should allow Comcast’s purchase of Time Warner Cable and AT&T’s acquisition of DirecTV to go through. 

The order keeping the documents secret is only temporary while both sides argue their cases, but is a major victory for the companies and critics of the FCC’s action.

It remains unclear whether or not the FCC will continue to press forward with the case. An FCC spokesman declined to comment on its path forward. 

Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly, the FCC’s two Republican commissioners, said they were pleased by the ruling and that it should not delay the FCC’s review of the merger proposals.

“In the meantime, we hope that the commission and programmers will come to the negotiating table and reach a compromise,” they said in a statement.  

Updated at 5:29 p.m.