The Federal Communications Commission can move forward with its review of Comcast Corp.'s proposed $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc. without disclosing confidential programming contracts, a federal appeals court said Friday.
The FCC had no comment on Friday but was evaluating how to continue with its exhaustive regulatory review.
The agency stopped its merger review on Oct. 3 to obtain more information from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Charter Communications, all of which are involved in the complex deal.
The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was a victory for CBS Corp., Scripps Networks Interactive Inc., the Walt Disney Co., Time Warner Inc., and other content companies. They opposed releasing their contracts with sensitive information to third-party attorneys representing other media companies, TV distributors, and advocacy groups.
The contracts contain information on how much Comcast and DirecTV pay for cable channels and other financial arrangements between the content companies and pay-TV companies.
"The [FCC] has access to the relevant documents at issue in this matter and can continue to evaluate the proposed merger," the appeals court wrote.
Friday's order was a procedural action and does not end the litigation.
Comcast has said that contract disclosures were not central to the FCC's review, which it would like to see concluded in early 2015.
"The stay order deals with a procedural matter that has never had anything to do with the substance of our transaction. As the court stated, the commission has access to all the documents at issue and can continue its review of the transactions while the stay is in effect," Comcast said Friday.