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By Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — “The proposed AT&T and DirecTV merger would be the fourth-largest telecommunications merger in history,” four top House Judiciary Committee members said. “The committee has a strong record of reviewing proposed transactions that could have a significant impact on consumers and the competitive marketplace.”

Committee Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte (R-VA), top Democrat John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, along with antitrust subcommittee chairman Spencer Bachus (R-AK), and that panel’s ranking Democrat, Hank Johnson of Georgia, said they would hold a hearing, though no date was announced.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) also implied that his panel would bring in top company executives for a hearing as well. He said the committee “will be looking closely at this transaction.”

“With this latest proposed merger, I am concerned that the telecommunications marketplace is trending even further toward one that favors big companies over consumers,” Leahy said.

Both committees held hearings recently on Comcast’s proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable.

Congress has no direct role in approving major corporate mergers, which are formally reviewed by regulators.

But hearings on Capitol Hill allow lawmakers to publicly question company executives and raise concerns for regulators to consider. The hearings also can give consumer groups, competitors and other opponents a forum to air their complaints.

The AT&T-DirecTV deal will need approval from the Federal Communications Commission and either the Justice Department or Federal Trade Commission.

The FCC and Justice Department already are reviewing the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal.

AT&T’s move to acquire DirecTV adds to a busy agenda for FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

In addition to the two major telecommunications deals, the agency is considering controversial net neutrality rules for Internet traffic and revised regulations covering ownership of multiple media outlets in the same market.

The FCC also is trying to lure broadcasters to give up some of their airwaves to be auctioned off for expanded wireless services next year.

Photo: MrVJTod via Flickr

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