WASHINGTON (CNNfn) - The creation of the world's largest media and entertainment conglomerate moved a step closer to reality Friday.
Federal Trade Commission members met to discuss Time-Warner's purchase of Turner Broadcasting System Inc.
FTC staff got the go-ahead from commissioners to draft a final consent order. When completed in about three weeks, commissioners are expected to formally vote on the deal.
Merger analysts and media watchdogs have been carefully tracking the FTC to look for evidence that could signal how the agency will respond to future media deals.
For an agency that doesn't welcome a lot of attention, the FTC has gotten its share thanks to the Time Warner-Turner deal. Antitrust lawyers and merger experts say they were most impressed at the FTC's flexibility.
With the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, observers say it's important for the FTC to carve out a role for itself.
"Without a doubt, the 1996 Telecom Act has by far a larger impact on the media industry than this deal. This is just the gnat on the back of the Telecom Act," said Scott Cleland, telecommunications analyst at Washington Research Group.
That gives veteran FTC watchers a sense that there will soon be a flurry of changes at the agency.
In an effort to remain an important player in media mergers, the FTC seems to have set aside its prosecutorial role, choosing instead to act more like a regulatory agency.
Antitrust lawyer David Donohoe, said the way the FTC restructured the Time Warner-TBS deal is a perfect example. (144K WAV) or (144K AIFF)
Much of the credit for the transition is being given to FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky, described by many as a mastermind when it comes to anti-trust issues.
Pitofsky also has a keen interest in media issues which could mean that the FTC will end up playing a larger role than the Justice Department in media cases.