Unanimous FCC Approval for DIRECTV/Liberty Deal

When it comes to big matters, not much at the Federal Communications Commission gets done with all commissioners in agreement. That was the exception Monday, when leaders of the regulatory agency approved Liberty Media's takeover of a controlling stake in DIRECTV.

All five commissioners signed off on the deal. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and Commissioners Deborah Taylor Tate and Robert McDowell - all Republicans - joined Democrat Commissioner Michael Copps in endorsing the transaction. Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein issued a statement approving and dissenting in parts of the FCC order.

Through the deal, News Corp. is swapping its stake in DIRECTV - along with regional sports networks and $550 million in cash - for the stock Liberty Media holds in the media giant. The fact that DIRECTV is no longer in the hands of Rupert Mudoch and Co. apparently convinced the FCC's Democrats to concur with the other commissioners on the item.

Copps lamented that DIRECTV would transfer "from one giant media conglomerate to a marginally-less-giant media conglomerate." Nonetheless, he said once the deal is consummated, "the transaction will result in a measure of de-consolidation and somewhat less vertical integration. That is the distinction between this transaction and the Hughes/News Corp. deal four years ago, and that is why I am concurring rather than dissenting in the decision."

Adelstein agreed, saying while News Corp is transferring DIRECTV to Liberty Media, "another vertically-integrated media company which seems to have an appetite to become even more vertically-integrated a little media deconsolidation is better than no deconsolidation at all."

Adelstein's part dissention came from concerns about the lack of local TV service to smaller markets.

"Universal local-into-local service should be a localism goal of the commission, and it should be an imperative for DIRECTV," the commissioner said in a statement. "The benefits of video competition should be available for all Americans.