A Look at Who Will Decide AT&T-DirectTV, Comcast-Time Warner Mergers

 
 
By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2014-07-11 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The proposed mergers between cable companies Comcast and Time Warner Cable—in which Comcast would pay $45.2 billion—and television providers (among other things) AT&T and DirecTV—in which AT&T would pay $48.5 billion—were filed within weeks of each other and quickly viewed as intertwined. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) clearly also sees a link, as Chairman Tom Wheeler announced on July 7 the members of the teams he's put together to oversee the reviews of both sets of merger applications. The FCC's acting general counsel, Jonathan Sallet, will chair the steering committee that will oversee both sets of transactions. Harold Feld, with consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, tweeted after the announcement, "Heavy on the antitrust experience from [Department of Justice], academia," while telecom analyst Paul Gallant commented to the Washington Post that the clear message was that "these deals will not be a cakewalk." Here, we take a closer look at the people who have been chosen to decide whether consolidation in these key markets will truly serve the American people.

 
 
 
  • A Look at Who Will Decide AT&T-DirectTV, Comcast-Time Warner Mergers

    by Michelle Maisto
    1 - A Look at Who Will Decide AT&T-DirectTV, Comcast-Time Warner Mergers
  • Jonathan Sallet, FCC General Counsel

    Jonathan Sallet has been a partner at three law firms, served as chief policy counsel for the telecom MCI and was the director of the Office of Policy & Strategic Planning for the Department of Commerce. Speaking at the National Press Club in March, Sallet said, "I am aware of the reputation that some attribute to the FCC, that the answer is always 'yes' and the path to 'yes' is bargaining with the agency." He added that the outcome of the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile merger didn't "square" with this. Sallet will chair the steering committee that will oversee both transactions.
    2 - Jonathan Sallet, FCC General Counsel
  • William Lake, FCC Media Bureau Chief

    Also on the steering committee is Bill Lake. Lake says the Media Bureau recommends policy to the Commission on electronic media, broadcast radio and television, and the cable industry, and has been very active in making the spectrum incentive auctions happen. In a June 2013 interview, he said that according a report his group had put together, the average price of basic cable "continues to go up" and had risen about 6 percent over the last year. "We're interested in watching the cost of programming … because it's a consumer issue," he said.
    3 - William Lake, FCC Media Bureau Chief
  • Mindel De La Torre, FCC International Bureau Chief

    In 1994, Mindel De La Torre joined the FCC as deputy chief of its Telecommunications Division of the International Bureau. She left in 1998 to serve as the president of the D.C.-area consulting firm Telecommunications Management Group (TMG), but in 2009 returned to the FCC in her current role. She is also on the steering committee.
    4 - Mindel De La Torre, FCC International Bureau Chief
  • Julie Veach, Wireline Competition Bureau Chief

    Also on the steering committee is Julie Veach. She was previously the deputy chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau and an attorney in the office of the general counsel. In May she blogged about the need for greater communication—from the telecoms and customers—as the transition is made from copper to fiber and wireless technologies. While the FCC supports investment in new networks, she wrote that "investment and innovation go hand-in-hand with the statutory values that we are charged to protect."
    5 - Julie Veach, Wireline Competition Bureau Chief
  • Roger Sherman, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Chief

    Roger Sherman is the final bureau chief on the steering committee. He spent 10 years working on regulatory issues at Sprint before returning to Capitol Hill in 2007. He was the chief counsel for Communications, Technology and the Internet and the democratic chief counsel to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. He came into his latest role in November, taking the place of Ruth Milkman, who became Chairman Wheeler's chief of staff.
    6 - Roger Sherman, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Chief
  • Hillary Burchuk, Attorney with the General Counsel's Office

    Hillary Burchuk will lead a "working team" responsible for reviewing the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger, with Bill Dever, from the Wireline Competition Bureau, as her deputy. A trial attorney with the office of the FCC's general counsel, Burchuk was an attorney with the Justice Department's Antitrust Division and worked on that department's review of Comcast's merger with NBC Universal, as well as on the blocked T-Mobile/AT&T deal.
    7 - Hillary Burchuk, Attorney with the General Counsel's Office
  • Jamillia Ferris, Office of the General Counsel

    Ferris will lead the working team that will review the AT&T/DirecTV merger, with Elizabeth Andrion, from the Office of Strategic Planning & Policy Analysis, as her deputy. New to the FCC, as of July, Ferris was a partner in the law firm Hunton & Williams. During the first Obama Administration, though, she served as deputy chief of staff, and then chief of staff and counsel to the assistant Attorney General, where she was part of the team that oversaw the Apple price-fixing lawsuit. Both working teams will report to the steering committee. (Image source: Hunton &Williams.)
    8 - Jamillia Ferris, Office of the General Counsel
  • William Rogerson, Northwestern University

    Rogerson will serve as the senior economist overseeing the review of both proposed transactions. He was the FCC's chief economist for a year during the Clinton administration and has written at length about the FCC's position regarding Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal, which he advised could cause "significant competitive harms." The FCC, which nonetheless approved the deal, came up with mechanisms, Rogerson has written, to "fashion remedies" to such harms.
    9 - William Rogerson, Northwestern University
  • Shane Greenstein, Northwestern University

    Greenstein, a professor in the Dept. of Management and Strategy at the Kellogg School of Management, and a Kellogg Chair of Information Technology, will serve as the senior economic consultant on both deals. Testifying before Congress on net neutrality in 2011, Greenstein said, "The rate of innovation may decline if there is any movement toward less transparency and more blocking and more discrimination of traffic. … Policy should favor faster deployment and use, and avoid risks that potentially slow it down."
    10 - Shane Greenstein, Northwestern University
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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