Media mogul Byron Allen is insisting that news outlets were off base in reporting that the FCC was close to circulating an approval order for Charter's merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.
Allen's Entertainment Studios (ES) recenty filed a $10 billion discrimination lawsuit against Charter Communications for a lack of diversity. Charter has never launched a 100% African-American-owned programming network, he said. Now, ES and The National Association of African American-Owned Media, which joined in the suit, said that they were told that the tie-up review was "very much ongoing."
In fact, the FCC has not yet circulated the merger approval as an agenda item, the sources said, adding that the regulators are likely to impose conditions for minority-owned programming, much like it did in the Comcast-NBCUniversal merger. And therefore, the deal should fall apart, according to Allen.
“Mr Allen’s history of frivolous claims speaks for itself," said Charter in a statement. "Charter is committed to expanding diversity and inclusion throughout the company as reflected in the MOU we signed with leading national civic organisations representing communities of colour and recognised by members of the Congressional Black Caucus in their recent letter to the FCC. Our commitments will enhance diversity in corporate governance, including on our board of directors, employment, suppliers, community investment and in the programming we carry. We look forward to obtaining approval for our pending transactions and serving all consumers in the communities we will operate in.”
In December, Allen settled a lawsuit he'd filed against AT&T on similar grounds to the Charter suit, after AT&T signed a distribution agreement for Allen's networks.
There are plenty of opponents to the merger, most of whom argue that New Charter would, along with Comcast, create a dangerous duopoly controlling an estimated 90% of the nation's broadband connections (18.8 million). Also, by combining TWC's 11 million strong base with Charter's 4.1 million and Bright House's two million, the new Charter would have 17 million pay-TV subscribers. So, the merger would also mean that the top four MVPDs will control 79% of the nationwide pay-TV market, measured in terms of subscribers. And the top three alone, according to SNL Kagan, "will control two-thirds of the video delivery universe."
And, New Charter will have a combined portfolio of programming networks. All of that provides the potential for an abuse of power that could squeeze out smaller ad minority networks, which would lose much of their leverage for carriage negotiations in a greatly reduced delivery market.
The Stop Mega Cable Coalition for instance argues that New Charter and Comcast could co-ordinate their actions by simply responding to the others' behaviour. This could take the form of parallel action or even express agreements, which would limit consumer access to standalone broadband service, or raise the price to compel consumers to only subscribe to their bundles.